Ever since Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, much has been made of how Instagram will transform itself from a community built on the power of visual storytelling to a money making machine.
While advertisers have been ploughing money into Facebook and Twitter, many have been hesitant towards Instagram, with most of the publicised advertising coming from fashion brands, paying power users to take photos with their products. The beauty and fashion industry have really taken a stronghold over Instagram, with many beauty bloggers charging up to a remarkable $15,000 for a single photo!
Advertising on the platform was only formally introduced in September, with many businesses so to jump onto the social network. So if you’re interested in pushing your brand from a marketing perspective utilising Instagram then read on for my top tips.
I have always been a big fan of tools for Social Media, as a way to automate laborious tasks, build a strong following and helping to analyse and present data. Below are some of the tools I would recommend setting up for your brand.
- Social Insight: This is a great analytics tool to help build an understanding of your audience, how your account is growing and the interaction rate from each posts. You can also use this for multiple accounts, making it an interesting prospect for agencies or brands with more than one profile.
- Scheduling:? I have always been a big fan of Hootsuite for scheduling posts on Facebook and Twitter, however Instagram has always been a bit more difficult, until Latergram.me came into my life. You still need to log into the phone app to approve the post, but at least you can schedule everything through latergram.me.
- Facebook Power Editor: If you plan on running sponsored posts on Instagram then you need to take a look at this one. This is probably the one that will be the most heavily adopted of the list as Facebook and Instagram become even closer.
- Ninjagram: As well as Ninjapinner, a great bot for Pinterest by the same makers, this is probably the bot I have experimented with the most. It is a great way to automate the follow/unfollow process, although I would recommend avoiding the automated comments, as this is a clear way to get your account banned.
- Iconosquare: Posting images is grand, but if nobody sees them then you are wasting your time. Using Iconosquare can help you to find out exactly when your users are online. By finding the best time of day and days of the week, you can prepare a complete strategy to reach the most users possible.
The hashtag might have been popularised by Twitter but Instagram has become the new home of the hashtag. Choosing the right hashtags can make an extremely positive effect on how visible your image is. You need to consider what hashtags are relevant, which ones are trending and how many to include. Many businesses take this to an extreme, inputting hundreds of hashtags, which does work but can look extremely spammy for the end user.
It isn’t all about pictures anymore for Instagram. Many businesses are scared to make video, believing it will cost them an absolute fortune, but you can make a great clip using the IOS and Android app Flipagram, which will allow you to upload straight into your business Instagram account. Input some royalty free music and do some minor editing and you have a great video without any of the cost. Once again, the winners will be the early adopters.
Instagram has taken a leaf straight out of the Snapchat book. In 2016 Instagram introduced the image & video series, which allows people or businesses to post content in a chronological order, creating a story rather than just random posts.
We love this, largely as it shows Instagram’s willingness to adapt, something that other platforms such as Pinterest have failed to do over the past two years.
One of the key benefits to this option is you can post however many times as you want and it can all be collected under the hood of a ‘story’, meaning followers walls won’t be inundated with posts.
But as soon as something is introduced in social media, it is our job to tackle exactly how we can utilise this from a business perspective. Below are some of the key considerations you must take:
- First and foremost, this allows for a greater quantity of posts. If people don’t want to look at hundreds of pictures from a brand, they simply don’t need to click on it. But imagine you run a fashion brand. You could easily post 20 new dresses that have just hit the shelves, all in a single story. This previously would have been ‘over-kill’ for your followers, but now it will appear much cleaner.
- The most important element to remember is this is a ‘story’, so treat it like one. Maybe walk around your office and show each of the team at work. You could try walking around your store and showing some of the greatest products available. Why not take a camera to a factory and illustrate how the products are made, with an image of each step from beginning to end. Think of it as a possibility to show a behind-the-scenes view.
- Setup a competition within the story. Be creative with your games, but work out what would work with your audience within a series of images or videos. Each image could be a clue and the first person to contact in with the right answer wins (with a new image being posted every 10 minutes).
- Got a new product coming out? Tease them with snaps, even if you don’t show the full product. This will help to create buzz and increase social brand shares on multiple platforms.
- If someone gets through to the final image of the story, why not show a 24-hour voucher code. This would be exclusive to anyone who has got all the way to the end, as no one else will be aware of the deal. Think of it as a way to return the love towards your brand advocates.
- If you’re running an event, or your brand is attending an event, why not capture images and videos throughout the day and add them all to the story. Live updates will keep people excited (as long as the subject is exciting).
While Instagram has mainly gained advertising finance from big businesses, they have stated that 2016 is the year they hope to get more small businesses involved. The Facebook sales team have been fully trained in Instagram marketing and are now plugging both, so you may find them calling you up in the not too distant future.
If you have begun working on an Instagram social strategy and want a little more direction, you may want to consider some of the following points:
- Setting Targets: As with any social platform, you need to set regular targets, both to keep momentum and motivation high, as well as measuring success. Make them challenging, but also realistic, don’t expect to have a power account within your first month.
- Set a purpose: What is it you are trying to achieve from having the account? You really need to ask yourself this before you set off. Are you trying to increase visits through to your website? Are you attempting to build brand awareness? Are you finding another way to communicate with your customers? Are you focusing on a product launch or are you considering using the platform for flash sales in the future? If you work out the direction you want to go, this will affect the way you manage the account.
- Brand guidelines: I have seen a number of businesses going way off the ballpark with what they would normally post and what fits with their brand. You need to consider the type of posts that fit with your brand, the type of voice you want to be projecting and the style that matches your website
- Tell a story: So many brands forget that Instagram is a way to visually tell a story. Don’t just plug sales images, people will get bored. Try to build a relationship with your customers or potential customers and then bring sales in at an appropriate time without being too pushy.
- Routine is critical: Nothing is worse than seeing an account which was built, posted 20 pictures a day for two weeks and is then left for 6 months. It looks incredibly amateur. If you decide to use Instagram in your social media campaigns, then you need to grab the bull by the horns.
So make a decision, why are you on Instagram and make sure to set realistic targets. Good luck with building your account and let me know if you ever want advice or support.