The number one question we get asked is, "How do I build an Instagram following?"
While it's a great question, it isn't step number one. Before you start filling up your feed with countless selfies or the classic quote image, you need to define your brand voice on Instagram. Images need to align with your brand, thus promoting your values and mission.
Otherwise you could end up with a string of seemingly random cat photos when your business identify revolves around fashion. That's an extreme example, but you get the picture.
Here's how you do it.
Narrow in on the user experience key to your brand identity
One way to start your journey to pinpointing your brand identity is to sum up your brand essence in a single adjective. If you're a travel company, this could be an 'adventure'. If you're a women's clothing company, perhaps you want to portray 'confidence'.
The better you become at curating content that matches your brand and identifies with your target audience, the faster your ideal customers will connect with your account.
Whatever your unique brand essence, that's what your feed should focus on projecting.
Once you know the type of content you want to share, it's time to put together a content calendar. This helps you stay organized and can even play into putting together a larger Instagram marketing campaign.
How Do I Build an Instagram Following?
Now for the big question, "How do I grow my audience?
Once you go to post, it's important to determine which conversations you want to be involved in. This is where hashtags come into play. Users follow hashtags to view content around their interests. When you use hashtags, it automatically lists your photo into that specific search.
Research active tags that match your brand. When you match the right tags with engaging content, Instagram users who like your feed will start to follow you.
Some conversations are very loud, with hundreds of users adding content to the topic every hour. Similar to picking keywords, these are the hashtags with higher competition and more volume. While they may be highly relevant, it's harder to be seen with them. The key is to try out different groups of hashtags to try and increase engagement.
Engagement is also a two-way street. If you're looking to have users comment, like and connect with your account, it's smart to do the same. Follow relevant hashtags and get involved in the conversation.
One incredibly underused Instagram marketing strategy is @mentions.
There are several different ways to go about @mentions, several of which you will see the top accounts taking advantage of. The best way for rapid growth is to craft content that prompts your followers to @mention their friends in the comments.
Many posts that successfully use this tactic generate a lot of engagement. This is one of the more advanced Instagram marketing tactics.
Another effective strategy, that's easier to deploy, regardless of size, is to create a "tribe" on Instagram. This is a group of users who are trying to reach similar groups on Instagram. You agree to share each other's content, calling out to your audience to follow their account. They share your content, organically helping to increase reach.*
While you're building your tribe, use @mentions in your descriptions to build rapport with other accounts. Remember, social media is a great tool to build connections and engage with people.
And like every social platform, consistency is key. Similar to Pinterest, it's important to post regularly but not over post.
Sharing someone else's content, even your follower's, is a great way to both grow your audience and a build a relationship with followers. Be sure to always have permission before you share or repost another user's photo to not violate Instagram's rules.
What Are Good Instagram Tools?
The best place to start for insights right now is actually on Instagram. They recently opened new business insights on their business page tools. Designed to help you create better ads, this tool unlocks lots of useful analytics about your account.
Hashtagify.me is a great starter tool for evaluating different hashtags you can use for your business. You start by entering a term in the search toolbar. Hashtagify then gives you insights to how popular that specific term is as well as listing related hashtags.
For help creating spectacularly captivating content, explore Canva and Adobe Spark. Both platforms give you pre-formatted templates for each social platform as well as templates to start creating from.
Soldsie helps turn your profile link into a virtual storefront. Now you can do what you've been craving, turning your photos into a funnel for buying. They have two different options. The first transforms your profile link into a buyable photo gallery.
How Do I Evaluate Analytics and Stats?
As you know, we love evaluating analytics and digging into numbers. This also applies to Instagram, which brings us to another commonly asked question, "How do I evaluate analytics from Instagram?"
In order to start evaluating your numbers, it's important to know what your goals are for Instagram. Companies use Instagram for a variety of purposes, which range from increasing awareness, driving traffic to the website or selling products. Desired metrics vary by goal.
Most brands use Instagram to focus on brand awareness, which is a top of funnel activity. Measurements to consider for this goal are follows, likes and comments.
Perhaps you are using Instagram as a tool for lower in your sales funnel. If driving traffic to your website, converting on sales or capturing e-mails is your goal, then your data gem is how many people access your website through Instagram. To track that, add a UTM tracking code or use a Bitly link in your profile. From there you can see if your Instagram traffic converts on your website specific goals.
How Do I Share Links?
If you're new to Instagram, you might have noticed that there aren't a lot of ways to embed your links into posts.
We get asked all the time, "When will Instagram start allowing links on posts?"
In truth, we don't know if they ever will. Which means as marketers we need to be strategic about getting users to our websites. Right now there are three different ways to include links on Instagram.
- The first is the profile link. This is your only formal, and free, link on Instagram. If you frequently share blog posts or run different promotions, it often makes sense to change out the link to direct to your most recent promotion. This is great if your followers typically only engage with your most recent content.
- The second option is to use a tool like Soldsie to create clickable photo galleries. This converts your profile link into a digital storefront that users can browse. One thing to consider is that engagement goes down the more clicks we require from users. Soldsie adds an additional click to view your virtual storefront. If you use a tool like Soldsie, measure the sales and conversions to make sure it's worth the monthly fee.
- The last is the most effective and scalable option. Oddly enough, it's also the one that businesses shy away from the most. Yes, we're talking about Instagram ads.
We're not quite sure why businesses avoid Instagram ads, (or Promoted Pins for that matter). Instagram advertising gives you the option to have a tailored landing page, control the user experience, reach more users and measure your results. If you're able to generate more revenue than the cost of the ads, most likely it's a great avenue for your business.
This post is based on a live video I recorded with our CEO about Instagram Marketing. You can watch the first 10 minutes here and the full video for free on our education platform, Launchpad.