Are your Instagram efforts failing to produce the results you need?
Today I want to share three powerful ways to use Instagram hashtags in your social marketing campaigns to drive leads, sales and increased brand awareness.
Let's dive right in.
1. Build up a persuasive library of user generated content
Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably heard that people like to receive recommendations from their friends.
In fact, according to a study by Neilsen, "Eighty-three percent of online respondents in 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family." Additionally, 83% of respondents said "they take action on these opinions at least some of the time."
A similar study conducted by Harris Interactive found that 58% of people between 18 and 34 years old said they were at least somewhat likely to make a purchase after seeing a friend's post on social media.
Since user-generated reviews of a product are so powerful it makes a lot of sense for brands to build up a big library of user-generated content.
How? By creating and using a branded hashtag.
GoPro provides the perfect example for this - they encourage users to share photos taken with a GoPro camera using the #GoPro hashtag right in their Instagram bio.
To date over 27 million user-generated photos have been uploaded and tagged using the #GoPro hashtag.
Encouraging customers to share photos on Instagram of themselves using your product introduces your brand to their friends, which we know is a powerful recommendation tool. It can also act as social proof for any visitors who happen to discover your Instagram feed or website on their own.
Social proof is the psychological concept that says people are more likely to buy a product if they see other people also buying and using the product - it's why restaurants with a line out the door seem much more attractive than an empty restaurant, and it's also what creates a frenzy around a new product that sells out quickly.
If someone's thinking about purchasing a GoPro, and they see 27 million photos have been taken with the camera, they can easily think "Well, the product can't be bad if this many photos have been taken on a GoPro and then shared"
The branded hashtag acts as social proof that can get people to click the link in your Instagram bio to check out your site and see what you're all about.
You can also embed a feed of user-generated content onto your website to act as social proof on your sales pages like Oiselle does.
On your sales page this content becomes a powerful testimonial that encourages people to buy.
2. Increase your brand awareness with the right communities
But even if your brand isn't as big as GoPro - or not really big at all - you can still use Instagram to your advantage.
One of the great things about Instagram is that it includes a search bar which enables you to find people based on their interests. That is your secret weapon for connecting with your target audience on Instagram.
First, think about what your target audience likes. If you sell clothes or accessories, you might browse through the #OOTD (Outfit Of The Day) hashtag. If you sell running shoes you might browse through the #runner hashtag to find your target audience that way.
Once you've found the right hashtag or tags, it's time to start making connections.
There are two types of people you're going to find as you scroll through your hashtag.
First you'll find find influencers. These are people with a large number of followers. When they promote a product a big portion of their audience will value their recommendation and go buy the item.
You'll usually find influencers at the top of a hashtag feed where Instagram lists Top Posts - aka posts with a lot of likes and comments.
You can send them a Direct Message (DM) to connect further, or follow the link in their bio to seek out contact information - from there you can offer a free product in exchange for a review. This will work in some cases, but expect the influencer to reply with their sponsorship rates. Most influencers want to be paid for their work since it likely took them a lot of time and energy to build up their audience.
Sponsorship rates can vary from $10 to $10,000 or more, depending on how large of a following an influencer has. Expect to pay somewhere between $100 to $1,000 for most influencers.
The second type of person you'll find in the hashtag feed is your everyday Instagram user. He or she may not have a lot of likes, comments or followers, however, this type of person is still highly important to you because he or she represents your customer.
When connecting with everyday users, your initial goal is to work on getting Instagram followers. From there you can win them over with your exciting Instagram content and can earn a click to your website where they can make a purchase.But first you have to earn that follow.
To do that, you can follow a simple strategy that all of the pros use: "follow like like like." This plays out exactly how it sounds - you'll follow someone and then like three of their photos.
The time you spend showing love to your target audience will lead to following growth, and a great first touch point for your brand.
3. Host a contest that generates leads and sales
Collecting user-generated content and increasing brand awareness is great - but what if you want to generate leads and sales?
You can do that with Instagram hashtags too.
One of the fastest, and easiest, ways to begin driving traffic to your site where you can capture lead information or generate sales is to host a contest where the entry mechanism lives on your site.
Hudson Sutler did this very thing last summer - they hosted a contest where one person would win a grand prize of really awesome summer gear worth $1500. To enter, Instagram users had to click the link in Hudson's bio to fill out the entry form.
If you look at the post from Hudson, you'll see they added a bunch of hashtags to their contest promo post - this helped spread the word about their contest to people outside of their immediate follower base.
They also used some pretty generic hashtags like #contest and #weekend. This won't work for everyone, but it works well for Hudson because they sell products that appeal to a wide range of people.
Almost anyone who sees the prizes for this contest will be interested in winning - after all the prizes include sunglasses, a watch and sandals - things that most of us could use.
If your contest prize is something very specific, such as a pair of running shoes, you'll want to apply more specific hashtags like #running and #runnergirl.
The key thing about this tactic is to make sure you require Instagram users to submit their entry and contact information via your website.
There are many cool ways to host contests directly on Instagram but without hosting it on your website, you won't drive any traffic back to your site, and could therefore miss out on generating leads and sales.
Now that you have some clear ideas on how to use Instagram hashtags to improve your social marketing campaigns it's time to implement them.
If you have any questions about growing your Instagram presence or need help getting started please leave me a comment below and I'll do my best to answer.