I didn’t think much of Instagram marketing when it publicly launched in 2010, looking like nothing more than a place for filtered images of sunsets and food.
But fast forward to 2016—I’m glad to have been proven wrong! The social network went on to gain 400 million monthly active users and 75 million daily users, capturing 20% of internet users around the globe!
But more importantly (from a business and marketing perspective), Instagram’s brand engagement rate ranks the highest at 4.21% — giving brands 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook and 120 times more than Twitter!
The photo-sharing app isn’t showing signs of slowing down. Its double-digit growth continues – and so do the benefits for brands and businesses.
Social media marketing is a must for businesses; it slashes lead generation costs, builds trust with prospects, and increases web traffic year after year. And there’s no better network for engaging potential customers than Instagram!
If you’ve thought about jumping onto the Instagram train but you’re not sure where to start, here are 5 Instagram marketing best practices to set you on the right track.
Set Up Your Profile For Success with Instagram Marketing
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. Which of the 2 profiles will you follow — one that boasts nearly 600 thousand followers but does not list an optimized bio or even link to its website (and zero posts too)…
…or one with “only” 17.9 thousand followers but an optimized Instagram profile, complete with visually appealing content their target audience love, an optimized bio, a link to their homepage, and a branded profile picture?
The second profile, of course – it’s not even a contest!
Sure, you can easily sign up for the popular photo-sharing network and buy Instagram followers (which is social media suicide) to look cool. However, a profile devoid of good posts and a detailed bio will do nothing to attract real people to your business!
We will look at how to create eye-catching content and promote your brand on Instagram in the following sections.
But first things first: you need to have an optimized profile page that your posts can call home – one that inspires trust and compels your target users to follow your page.
Let’s look at a fine example and break down the elements of an Instagram profile that’s set up for success:
- An easy-to-remember username: If you have to spell out your Instagram username for someone to get it, you need to shorten and simplify it.
- Bio Description: Use keywords in your bio description. They won’t improve discovery in Instagram, but adding the right keywords can help your target audience identify with you.
- Branded profile image: Your profile photo must be at least 110 x 110 pixels. You can use your business logo or a headshot as a profile picture. If you decide to go for the latter, consider hiring a professional to take some great headshots and don’t forget to smile in your picture!
- Homepage link: At the end of the day, you want your followers to visit your business’s website, where you can convert them to subscribers or customers.
Oh! And one more tip before we move on: remember to link your Instagram account to your company’s other social media profiles.
This is especially helpful if you just joined Instagram but have a strong following on popular networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Linking your social profiles allows you to automatically publish new Instagram posts to your other accounts. And if you post Instagram-exclusive content, your followers on Facebook or Twitter will have good reason to follow you on the photo-sharing network as well – a great way to organically boost your likes.
Digital marketing and analytics expert Neil Patel even found that 3% of his Facebook friends started following his Instagram account after simply linking the 2 profiles together.
And the number can easily go up to 5% if you post a Facebook status update asking your friends to follow you on Instagram!
Here’s how it’s done in 3 steps:
- Go to your profile on the photo-sharing app.
- Tap on the settings icon found on the right-hand corner.
- Tap “Linked Accounts” on the following page.
- Tap a social network.
- Log in, link the accounts, and that’s it!
Now that you’ve learned how to set up your Instagram profile for success, let’s take a look at the unsung heroes of social media – the URL shorteners.
Shorten Links And Track Your Traffic With URL Shorteners
URL shorteners do what their name suggests: shorten links.
These services don’t seem like they do much – nice to have, but not necessary. But when you realize that just about anything in social media has a character limit, URL shorteners become much more appealing!
Case in point: Instagram’s bio description has a limit of 150 characters. If we want to link to one of StartAFire’s blog posts with a long URL…
…the full link takes up 52 characters, leaving us with only 98 characters to play with for our bio. However, using a URL shortener like Bit.ly condenses the 52-character link down to 21 characters – http://bit.ly/1VHrWH9 – giving you 31 more characters to use for your Instagram bio.
But while transforming long links to a condensed format is nice, the real usefulness of URL shortening services lies in their ability to track the number of clicks your shortened link receives.
If you want to measure how much traffic your Instagram account is generating for your website, the most popular URL shorteners such as Bit.ly, Goo.gl, and Ow.ly (all free by the way) come with tracking capabilities to help measure your progress.
Mashable, a popular digital media website, sets a fine example of how to take full advantage of URL shorteners.
Their Instagram bio has an enterprise Bit.ly link which allows them to constantly change the underlying URL to reflect the latest content they’re promoting.
This, along with the reminders in every post to click the profile link, allows them to track their click-through rates so they can tweak the content they publish for maximum impact.
Set Your Brand Apart By Posting Appealing Content
With 40+ billion photos shared on the network and 80+ million images uploaded day in and day out, Instagram is all about visual content…obviously.
What’s not so obvious, however, is the type of visual content that brands should upload to the network. For many businesses on Instagram, their feeds are nothing more than a catalog of the goods they sell and visual ads of their latest promotions.
Such a boring approach, centered too much on selling, will not work on Instagram. After all, nobody wants to be bombarded with sales and promotions on a site where they expect high-quality images that they can connect to.
So instead of turning your company’s feed to a glorified product catalog, follow the tips below and set your brand apart from those that just want to turn Instagram into a cash-cow:
- Don’t just showcase your product. Instead, post pictures of customers enjoying your product. And if you can get a celebrity or a respected name in your industry to pose for the camera like MEATliquor did, that’s even better!
- Post a funny picture that captures the thoughts of your target users and potential customers.
A photo posted by Rokit Vintage (@rokitvintage) on
- Filling your feed with product-oriented posts isn’t a good idea, but so is avoiding this type of content altogether.
The end-goal of Instagram marketing, after all, is to convert followers to customers – and making your products and services familiar to your audience through product-oriented photos is necessary.
For promo pictures that stand out, shoot outdoors where there’s plenty of natural light to work with, and place your subject (your product in this case) in front of an interesting background.
- Taking and uploading #nofilter photos may work for your personal Instagram account – if you’re naturally photogenic.
But since we’re talking about using Instagram to increase your brand’s exposure and engagement, using filters is something you should consider as it can greatly enhance your content’s aesthetic value, especially if your photos are of sub-par quality.
Moreover, a study involving 6 million posts across 10,000 brands seems to agree! The study found that posts using Hefe, Lo-Fi, Nashville, Brannan, and Kelvin filters generated 4.5% to 5.6% more engagement than the average Instagram post!
Know and Include Relevant Hashtags
A hashtag is like a filing cabinet. For example, if you search for the hashtag #socialmediamarketingtips in Instagram…
…the search result will show every piece of photo or video on the network with the said hashtag.
Hashtags provide an easy way for business owners and marketers to both join conversations in their respective industries and engage with their target audience (more on this in the next section).
Do you offer home renovation and remodeling services? Search for #homeimprovement to find not just the posts related to home improvement, but more importantly, the people who took the time to “Like” or leave comments – people who are likely to be interested in the services you offer!
Additionally, adding appropriate hashtags to your posts can help boost your searchability in the network.
Going back to our example above, adding #homeimprovement to your Instagram posts makes it easier for people interested in remodeling and renovation services to find your content.
And by the way, be a little generous when adding hashtags to Instagram posts. A study by Piqora involving 150,000 users found that 73% of brands on the photo-sharing network use too few hashtags, which means they’re not getting as much engagement as they should.
So how many hashtags should you include?
The same study says that adding 7 relevant hashtags can boost “Likes” by up to 23%! And fortunately, coming up with 7 hashtags is pretty easy.
Industry-related terms and keywords, your company name, city or location for brick-and-mortar businesses – all of these can be hashtagged. Also, you shouldn’t shy away from generally popular hashtags like #tbt or #selfie if they fit.
Leave Relevant Comments and See Your Following Rise
Fun fact: every second on Instagram produces 575 “Likes” but only 81 comments.
Pressing a button is definitely easier than coming up with something meaningful to say, which is why posts like the one below get hundreds of “Likes” but only a handful of comments.
A photo posted by WeWork (@wework) on
This also means that you may not get the responses you’re expecting from your prospects by simply liking their content. They get dozens or even hundreds of “Likes” for every post. Another one from you won’t surprise them.
But a comment notification from you?
Now that’s a way better idea to catch their attention! Leaving comments won’t just come as a pleasant surprise to your target users. People are almost guaranteed to comment back and are 401% more likely to follow you!
And isn’t that what we want?
So go forth! Search for the hashtags your prospects are likely to use.
Take note of the users you want to engage with and drop a line or two (make sure it’s meaningful, not spammy).
Rinse, repeat, and your follower count will thank you for it!
That’s all for today, folks! Instagram 101 class is now over.
The 5 marketing best practices above will give your Instagram marketing campaign the rock-solid foundation it needs to steadily build an engaged following and boost brand recognition on the hottest photo-sharing network around.
However, our list of 5 best practices is far from exhaustive. If you have a well-kept Instagram marketing tip or two, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
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