In just 10 short years, Instagram has grown into a powerhouse marketing tool that savvy entrepreneurs are embracing. As of December, 2020…
· Instagram has over 1 billion active users—which means that your market is almost certainly using Instagram-and your competitors are, too.
· 67% of US adults use Instagram, so, while it doesn’t have the reach of Facebook (yet) it’s definitely a platform worth leveraging.
· A younger crowd-more than half of Instagram users are between 18 and 29-if that’s your market, Instagram is the place to be.
· 63% of users check their Instagram feed at least daily-that’s a lot of eyes on cell phones!
Not only that, but the platform has enjoyed double-digit annual growth, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Clearly, it’s time to embrace Instagram and the power it promises as a part of your overall marketing plan.
Instagram is like a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on mobile visual sharing. As with other social networks, you interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging, and private messaging. You can also save the photos you see on Instagram.
Since it’s so visually oriented, Instagram has multiple filters you can apply to enhance photos and videos. Additional photo editing options let you straighten the image, adjust brightness and warmth, and overlay color. For videos, you can disable audio, select a cover frame, and, if you use the iOS app, you can trim videos.
But Instagram presents some unique challenges, and those might have you wondering if it’s worth your time. The main ones are:
1) First, it’s completely smart phone driven. Unlike other platforms, you cannot post to Instagram from your computer. In fact, you can’t even post to it from 3rd party apps. It’s fully designed to attract cell phone users. So in markets where mobile usage is high (and let’s face it, that’s nearly everywhere), Instagram is a no-brainer.
2) It’s also image and video centric. Unlike Facebook and Twitter and even Google+, where text updates are still the norm, Instagram demands photos. Text (called “captions” on Instagram) is secondary-although, unlike some other platforms, Instagram is quite generous with their character limit. Keep in mind that even on other platforms, images typically outperform text-only updates. So, focusing on images in your marketing is probably a good thing.
Instagram for Businesses
But Instagram isn’t just about photos. Using a business profile, you can highlight your brand’s mission and goals, feature your products, capture leads, and get sales.
When you sign up for Instagram there is a personal Instagram profile option and then there’s an “Instagram for Business” option. It’s like Facebook in that, the personal profile is for personal use, and the business profile is where you can make offers. (If you already have a personal profile, you can easily switch it to a business profile, or have both.)
As an additional feature, the business profile gives you access to analytics, which means you can see stats and demographics of your followers and your likes. This helps you to understand who your target audience is and what they like. You can also pay to promote your posts, something you cannot do with a personal Instagram account. Just like with Facebook, if you want to ensure that people see your business posts you will have to pay for it.
Instagram and Facebook
You probably know that Instagram is owned by Facebook, which means you can actually link the two platforms to reach both your Facebook and your Instagram audience.
When you run an ad on Facebook, you can also run it on Instagram. Or if you post content on Instagram, you can have it automatically post on Facebook as well. This saves you time and helps keep your social media accounts congruent.
So how can you put Instagram to work in your marketing?
Here are 6 steps you can take to get started using Instagram to promote your business:
Step 1: Optimize Your Profile
As with any platform, Instagram asks you to create a personal and/or business profile. This is where new followers will find out more about you, who you serve, and what your personality is like. It’s your chance to shine… in 150 characters or less.
Step 2: Start Growing Your Community
Above all else, Instagram is a social network, and that means active participation in the community is a must. Concentrate on finding and following the right people: Influencers in your market, as well as your dream clients. Once you find these people, start conversations with them to begin building relationships.
Of course, the ultimate goal of all social media is to get your online community to subscribe to your list, so you have control over how you interact with them. After all, any of these companys could be gone tomorrow, leaving you empty-handed.
Step 3: #hashtags #matter
Perhaps more than any other social network, Instagram relies on hashtags to sort and categorize content. Users who are interested in certain topics can choose to “follow” certain hashtags, just as you might follow other users.
You can put the power of hashtags to work for you by using a careful combination of tags designed to get your content found and followed:
1) The first hashtags to include are the popular/common types. So, for example, if you’re sharing inspirational quotes that might include #inspirationalquotes, #inspiration, and #quote. This will get your content found by those who search on these broad topics. Not everyone in this group will be your ideal client, but that’s OK.
2) The second type of hashtag to use is those that are specific to your audience or niche. #Podcasting, #WAHM, #virtualassistant, #businesscoach and others like these are used less frequently, but will attract a much more targeted market.
3) Another hashtag type you’ll want to use is basically just asking for a follow. These include #follow, #followme, and #follow4follow, among others.
Step 4: Develop Your Brand
If you struggle with branding, you’re not alone. It’s one of those things that feels so murky and vague that it’s difficult to point to. Is it a logo? The colors on your website? Your tagline? It’s all of those and more.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when you think about your brand. Done well, branding makes every post, photo upload, and social media update instantly recognizable as your own. It’s what makes you YOU—the thoughtful use of:
And, for photos, it means being as consistent as possible with composition, style, filters and other elements.
Step 5: Create a Content Strategy
As with other platforms, when you use Instagram for your business, you may want to create a content marketing strategy. To do that, first determine how many times per day or week you want to post. Some coaches post once a week and some post several times a day. Whatever you decide, it’s important to be consistent.
And follow this guideline for content composition: Have a third of your posts be about your branding, a third sharing content from influencers or your users, and a third actually selling your product or service:
a) Branding: To help your followers get to know you as a brand, include your values, mission, and your “why”.
b) Sharing: This includes reposting what your followers post (and of course giving them credit). Followers love when you repost their images. It makes them feel validated and appreciated by your brand. If you repost influencers’ images, that will help you to get noticed by them.
c) Selling: Sales posts should not be pushy and should reflect your brand’s personality. Use lifestyle photos of your products and/or services to show them how their lives would be improved with your product or service.
Using a content strategy along with a content calendar, can keep you organized and help you lay out your content in such a way that benefits your business, as well as your customers. A content calendar can be an Excel spreadsheet, a Google doc, or a WordPress plugin for calendars. But there are also many content calendars available online. Just pick one! Then use it to map out your content based on your marketing and content strategy.
There are also products, such as “The Ultimate Content Creation Toolkit” that can help you come up with topics for your content, create a combined marketing and content strategy, and arrange it all on a calendar for scheduling.
Step 6: Start (or join) a Conversation
All of social media is about relationships. It’s ultimately not about making sales, or getting more followers, or driving traffic. It’s about making a real connection with individual people.
All of those other things-the sales and the traffic and the followers-are the result of the connections you make. And what’s the easiest way to make a connection and build a relationship?
Join (or start) the conversation by these actions:
· Like and share content that moves you
· Give a shout-out to those who inspire you
· Follow the people who have something of value to say and share
· BE one of the people who say, do, and share valuable things
Instagram is a social platform that you could be utilizing no matter what your product or service. It’s a simple, but powerful platform for getting engaged followers, targeted leads, and additional sales. By creating an Instagram business profile and using its many features, you will have another way to brand yourself with a whole new audience.
About the Author: Jeannette Koczela, Founder of the International Association of Professional Life Coaches, provides business and marketing resources, tools, and training life coaches so that they can run their business more profitably. Download the free “Essential Coach Kickstart Business Guide” HERE, and get weekly tips, strategies, and guidance on how to create a thriving coaching business.