The recent explosion of Instagram has captured the attention of marketers everywhere - especially those keeping tabs on trends in visual storytelling and social media-based audience building.
As of June this year, the platform has over 500 million monthly active users, 300 million of which are logging on daily, making it more popular than Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest.
And Instagram's looking to cash in on that interest, announcing new marketer tools like the ability to switch between accounts and providing new analytics options like view counts on videos. And those efforts are clearly paying off - latest reports suggest that there are now more than 500,000 businesses utilizing the paid reach options on the app.
Given the rising interest, competition for attention on the platform is also on the rise, which means marketers need to do all they can to stay one step ahead of the competition. To help with this, here are eight Instagram tools that can help you maximize your on-platform efforts.
1. Manage Your Community
Crowdfire enables you manage your following on Instagram (Twitter too, by the way). See who has recently followed and unfollowed you, learn who's no longer active on the network, discover commonly followed accounts among your followers and identify the profiles you follow that don't follow you back. You can also use Crowdfire to learn who your most engaged fans are, so you know to interact with those people more often.
2. Monetize Influence with Merch
With ViralStyle, you can create merchandise and promote it to your Instagram following with minimal friction and investment. The branded tee shirts are printed on demand, and orders are fulfilled and shipped by the platform. Using the platform's design tools, you can create a custom product and make it ecommerce-ready in a matter of minutes.
Plus, integrated marketing tools enable you to create social ads. You can also integrate your email campaigns to advertise your products to your list. You can set up a storefront, use coupon codes and engage with customers for upselling.
Take a look at this example from Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. He uses ViralStyle to sell tee shirts to his Instagram fans, giving away autographed units as a raffle and driving cross-channel engagement by posting contest terms on Twitter.
3. Measure Your Contests
Running Instagram contests is a great way to boost user-engagement, attract new followers and create a buzz around your brand.
Source: Getting More Followers on Instagram [Infographic]
A rich analytics and contest management suite for Instagram, Iconosquare offers embeddable hashtag aggregation boards, moderation modules and engagement metrics.
With your contest hashtag and start and end dates entered, your contest is ready to go live, and once it's over, you can drill down into performance details and even download a list of participants for follow-up engagement.
4. Curate and Embed Submissions
User-generated content is a powerful marketing tool, largely because it helps prospective ecommerce customers see how past buyers have enjoyed products in real life. Yotpo enables you to solicit and curate content from users and embed their submissions for use in your marketing assets.
The platform enables you to collect authentic photos from your customers, especially those shared on Instragram, to use alongside onsite reviews. You can showcase these collections on your website, your social media profiles and even in your ads, to boost your brand's authenticity, trustworthiness and social proof.
To add to its value proposition, Yotpo has recently rolled out an Instagram ad management tool. Much like their Facebook ads integration, you can use to use it to grow your following, or to advertise products and services with the power of UGC integrated with the creative.
5. Buy and Sell Image Rights
The stock photo backlash is real, and Instagram's economy might be the gateway to viable answers. One of several rising marketplaces of its kind, Lobster enables marketers to find and source images taken by community members.
Photographers on Lobster can sell the rights to use their content, and businesses have the option to purchase a subscription, so they have access to the images in the marketplace whenever they need them.
6. Schedule Your Posts
Instagram is all about real-time posting and engagement for the most part, but not every marketer is able to be active at the same time as our audiences. The recent announcement that the platform's feed is switching to algorithmic curation underlines the need for targeted scheduling.
Latergramme's tools support scheduling posts from all devices, with logins for multiple team members, multiple Instagram accounts and even reposting capabilities.
7. Sponsor Buyable Product Imagery
With Stylinity, you can find Instagram influencers interested in modeling your products as ecommerce-integrated UGC distributed to their followers. The company's "Shoppable Content Management System" works across several social networks, and marketplace members can follow the brands they love to learn about new opportunities, called "Looks."
8. Buy Sponsored Posts
Using TapInfluence, brands can team up with top Instragrammers to create sponsored posts to share with their audience on a fully automated basis. Advertisers can use the platform's proprietary tools to find influencer matches, automate work flows and promote content. Their TapExchange module supports cost per engagement metrics and advanced audience targeting.
Investing in the Instagram Exchange
There are signs that Instagram's meteoric rise is slowing down, with analysts pointing to engagement rate drop-offs and follower growth saturation as key factors to keep our eyes on. However, for those of us willing to experiment with a "pay to play" model, the marketing opportunities on offer here are as enormous as the economy surrounding them.
Today there are tools to enable virtually any Instagram-based marketing task you can think of. Whether you need to schedule activity in advance, growth hack your community of followers or sponsor posts from popular and eager Instagrammers, there's probably a product out there to make it happen.