Before we begin, it’s worth noting that there are two very different methods for using Instagram for social media marketing. One method is “organic,” which uses targeted posts and user interaction to build a brand on Instagram. That is the method we will discuss in this article.
The other method is paid advertising. Paid advertising is extremely effective on Instagram, and it’s part of the larger Facebook marketing software suite, as Facebook currently owns Instagram. However, due to it’s relative complexity, it will receive it’s own post in the near future. For now, let’s talk about whether Instagram would be a good fit for your small business.
Is Instagram Right For You?
Admittedly, Instagram is not a suitable platform for every small business. Where Facebook strives to appeal to every market sector, Instagram appeals more to individuals and businesses who can adopt a visual-first marketing strategy. It’s also worth noting that, while the number of Facebook users remains fairly constant at all ages, Instagram’s user base quickly begins to taper off at the age of 30.
However, Instagram’s user base is highly engaged – about 59% of Instagram users check their account every day, and 76% check their account at least every week. This provides a great opportunity for an individual or brand to create a highly engaged user base, and it’s what allows so many Instagram power-users to become social media superstars.
The types of businesses for which Instagram is an effective marketing tool are businesses that are aesthetically driven, highly personable, and appeal to Millennials (who, if you recall, are currently the largest population in the workforce – nothing to scoff at!). Some example professions might be:
- Restaurants, cafes/coffee houses, bars, bakeries
- Musicians, artists, photographers, writers, models, thespians
- Fashion designers, clothing retailers, stylists
- Gyms and Fitness Centers, personal trainers, body builders
This is not an inclusive list, but chances are if your business falls into one of these categories or a similar type of business, you could be wildly successful on Instagram.
To implement our Instagram marketing strategy, we’ll use the same basic three steps that we’ve talked about before: Learn, Engage, Optimize. To illustrate how to do this, I’ve created a brand new public Instagram account for myself so I can give you a step-by-step for building your account over the first few days.
Step 1: Learn
Follow important people in your niche.
After you create your Instagram account, you’ll want to see what the most popular people in your niche are doing on their Instagram accounts. The fastest way to do this is to simply google your niche, followed by “Instagram,” and some of the most popular Instagram accounts in the niche will rank first in the google search.
Once you’ve followed a few of those accounts, Instagram will learn what you’re interested in. Click on the little “plus” icon on your profile and go to the “discover people” page. At the top will be people that you’re directly connected to via Facebook, but if you scroll down a little ways, you’ll start to see people who have popular accounts in your niche and people that popular accounts follow. Make sure the accounts are public, and follow these accounts.
Study Popular Hashtags
Hashtags are, in essence, a labeling mechanism that allows other users to search for posts in which they are interested. Every niche on Instagram has it’s own set of hashtags that everyone in the community uses to communicate with each other. That means to be successful in a niche, you need to learn what hashtags are popular. The best way to do this is to follow influencers in your niche, and use the same hashtags that they are using to share their content.
For example, in our sample profile I am interested in sharing my experiences living and traveling in Vietnam, so I have selected hashtags relevant to traveling and living abroad.
Now that we know how to effectively deploy our content so that it can be discovered, let’s talk about
Step 2: Engage
Genuinely interact with the accounts you have followed.
DO NOT BE SPAMMY. Go through each account that you follow and like several pictures, maybe 4 or 5 at a time. The bigger the account, the more pictures you will want to interact with to increase your chances of being noticed. Also, leave genuine, productive comments, like you would for a friend. Do not post links or hashtags to your own account. Soon, some of these people will begin to follow you, then their following will begin to follow you, and your audience will begin to grow.
Interact with the people who interact with you.
If someone leaves a comment, respond and check out their account. If your account is relatively large, create your own hashtag that is easy for others to use. For example, for my account I might use #hiddensaigon, then go out and find places in the city that are quiet and peaceful. When my followers find similar places, they can also use this hashtag. This creates a community around your brand, and every great marketer knows that building a community around your brand is the golden ticket of marketing.
Step 3: Optimize
Historically, gathering relevant data on Instagram has been very frustrating. The industry standard for Instagram analytics has been a third-party software called “Iconosquare,” which provides deep insights into your business’s Instagram data. It’s an amazing piece of software, if you have extra cash to burn on software specific to Instagram. But not everyone does.
However, Instagram recently released a brand new analytics suite called “insights” for users who are using Instagram for business. Insights connects with your brand’s Facebook page to provide metrics related to other users who are following or unfollowing you, your highest engaging posts, who your biggest fans might be, what times of day are the best to post, etc. Unfortunately, this analytics suite is not yet available for all users, and is slowly being rolled out over the remainder of 2016 and early 2017.
To be sure, as soon as I am granted access to the software suite, I’ll be writing about it right here on The Logical Entrepreneur. So make sure to subscribe and check back often. See you again!