How to Use Instagram for Business
What is Instagram Marketing and Why Should You Care
When devising your internet marketing strategy, it can be all too easy to forget about Instagram in the mix.
Compared with Facebook, Instagram has relatively few users and it’s not as clear how it can be monetized. There’s no content in an image and people don’t want pictures in their Instagram feed telling them to ‘buy now or sign up to their mailing list…
So with all that in mind, why would you invest a lot of time or money into the platform?
Well, there are a lot of good reasons. When used correctly, Instagram is a fantastic way to promote products and services, increase your brand’s visibility, and position yourself as a hip and artistic brand. We’ll get into the details and the statistics later on but the bottom line is that you’ll probably be surprised.
Instagram is bigger than Twitter and its users are far more engaged and far happier to buy products – even when compared with Facebook itself! Let’s take a look then at what Instagram is and why it matters in a big way for your business…
What is Instagram?
There’s a good chance you already know the gist of what Instagram is about but let’s just recap on the nuts and bolts. Essentially then, Instagram is a social network that revolves around pictures. At its most basic, Instagram is an image-sharing suit but unlike something like Imgur the pictures tend to be a little more personal. This is not where you would upload an image to share with a client for instance – the image quality wouldn’t even be high enough for most uses.
Instead, Instagram is about telling your story or finding beautiful moments every day. It’s about being personal and it’s about keeping people up-to-date with your activities.
So if you were to go on holiday, you might take hundreds of photos for Facebook but Instagram would be where you’d upload the select few highlights or the beautiful picture of that sunset/that empty pint on the beach. This is about expression.
The relatively low image quality and square dimensions are in service of this artistic bent, as are the ‘filters’ that Instagram lets you apply.
Once you have cropped your photo into a square, you then have the option to apply filters that will alter the brightness, contrast, structure, saturation, warmth, etc. to create some effects.
Photos can be made to look vintage, colors can be brought out or subdued, and generally, you can alter the mood and impact of your image in a variety of ways.
Once you’ve done this, you then have the option to add tags to your images. These work in the same way as tags on Twitter – they describe what is in the image and then allow other people to find your image by searching. These tags will be added using the ‘hashtag’ symbol ‘#’ and can be placed right inside your description.
If you took a photo of yourself working out then, you might write ‘Getting some pump on #legsday! #workout #fitness.
This way, anyone who searched for #fitness shortly after would see your picture come up – until it was buried by other pictures with the same hashtag (which wouldn’t take very long!). Later in this Article, we’ll examine how to pick the best hashtags for optimal visibility.
Also in your description, you can tag other users using the ‘@’ symbol. You can also tag users in the pictures themselves, much like on Facebook.
Instagram also can ‘message’ photos with Instagram direct. And as with Twitter, it’s possible for users to ‘follow’ accounts that they like and then to be updated regularly with new content as it gets uploaded by said account.
Simply tap on the name of the person who uploaded the photo and then clicks ‘follow’. As a business on Instagram, getting lots of followers is going to be your main objective.
What you might have noticed about all this is that it isn’t immediately conducive to marketing. That is to say, people on Instagram are largely there to see updates from their friends and family and to see beautiful pictures uploaded by the likes of National Geographic. This is where people come to see the ‘beauty in everyday life. This in turn means you need to be very strategic about the way you market here – but it can be done.
Instagram is Pretty Big
Here are a few compelling reasons that you should be on Instagram… Remember when I said that Instagram wasn’t as big as Facebook? You should do it, it was only about 10 minutes ago… Well, it’s important to remember that this is all relative.
Sure, it’s not as big as Facebook but then nothing is. That doesn’t mean it’s not objectively pretty large though – in fact, Instagram is still huge.
In other words, Instagram is growing fast. And while you might think of Instagram as one of the ‘smaller’ social networks, this is not true at all. Because in fact, Instagram has more users now than Twitter! This is likely owing to its broader appeal.
Things get even crazier when you consider how effective Instagram can be when used synergistically with the likes of Facebook and Twitter. You can instantly share Instagram images on Facebook and Twitter via built-in controls and the connection is very close indeed.
The format of Instagram is very similar to Twitter as it uses hashtags and tags and this means that you can upload content to Instagram and it will act as though you were uploading content to Twitter.
There’s even a section on Facebook for your Instagram photos.
Why? Because Instagram is now owned by Facebook.
This provides the perfect way for you to tie all your social media accounts together, save a lot of time uploading to multiple different channels, and increase your brand visibility.
It even plays nicely with Pinterest, which just so happens to be another sorely under-utilized social network for marketers.
On top of all that, Instagram is a great place to sell. According to recent studies, a lot of users use Instagram to shop – and some users even use Instagram primarily for shopping!
To put this in numbers, 70% of those surveyed by Iconosquare in 2021 stated that they have at some point sought out a brand on Instagram.
62% have followed brands that they love, while 41% said they would be happy to hear about giveaways and discounts through Instagram. 65% said that rather than being intrusive, they find it flattering when a brand likes their post.
Meanwhile, according to studies based on research firm L2, Instagram users are far more engaged than users on Facebook or Twitter – 18 times more! That means that if a brand posts something, it’s much more likely to see actual interaction with users.
As though that wasn’t enough reason to start investing in Instagram big time, it’s also worth remembering that Instagram is drastically underestimated by a lot of businesses and internet marketers.
In other words, your competition most likely isn’t making the most of Instagram right now and this will make it much easier for you to stand out and get noticed!
Get there now and you’ll be able to build a big following before every other company in your industry jumps on the bandwagon.
Finally, there’s the amazing ROI that Instagram offers. Brands love Twitter because it’s so incredibly easy for them to upload content.
The same can be said of Instagram – if you know how to take great photos, upload them and add tags, you can keep a very active account with just a few minutes a day or even a few minutes a week!
Instagram Marketing -101
Reading the above statistics you’ll likely have been a little surprised. Instagram is bigger than Twitter and better for engagement than Facebook!
Time to get on it! But why is Instagram so good for interaction? What is it about this channel that makes it potentially a gold mine for companies hoping to make an impression on their prospective audiences?
Especially considering that on the face of it, Instagram seems very much more geared towards sharing personal content with no marketing angle. Well actually, it’s this focus and this limitation that makes Instagram so effective.
You see, people are very cynical of businesses and they’re very tired of seeing the same marketing message over and over again.
It’s incredibly annoying to head onto Facebook to have a chat with your friends, or to see photos of your new niece, only to them be bombarded with offers for products saying ‘CLICK HERE!’, ‘ENTER YOUR EMAIL!’, ‘BUY NOW!’. Is it any wonder people aren’t engaging?
On Instagram though, there is no ‘click here or ‘buy now. Rather, there’s just – here’s a photo of us working in our office, a funny meme, a picture of something that encapsulates the subject you’re interested in, a new product framed artistically… This is far less invasive.
As such, brands on Instagram come across much more genuine and don’t appear to have the same obvious ulterior motive.
At the same time, because you’re forced to create something artistic and interesting on Instagram, that will help to make your business seem much more trendy, artistic, and interesting.
A company that is constantly uploading pictures of sunsets, of their products in amazing lighting, or inspirational messages is going to seem much savvier and in tune with their customers as opposed to a company that keeps just featuring large banners telling people to buy stuff…
Instagram is potentially highly lucrative for brands then and is a very smart place for them to invest their time and their money.
While this may be true though, it’s also very different from other platforms and other social networks. What this means, is that you need to approach it differently and you need to have different objectives lest you be disappointed.
So what does this mean? For starters, you need to be aware that Instagram isn’t about making direct sales and conversions.
You can’t include live links in your description that will send people anywhere, so you can’t have a ‘Click Here to Buy Now call to action there.
Remember: this is a good thing at the end of the day as far as your marketing is concerned.
So instead, what you need to be focusing on is your brand’s visibility, popularity, loyalty, and authority.
Your aim is to build followers on Instagram so that they will see your content and be constantly reminded about your brand and why it matters.
Likewise, you want the people who already like your brand to learn to like it even more and to be constantly reminded that you exist and of all the great things they can buy.
This is very much a ‘slow burn’ marketing strategy then and it should not be measured in terms of immediate ROI. This should be measured in terms of engagement, growth, and popularity.
In the long term, this is actually much more valuable to you than a single sale.
Creating Amazing Content for Instagram
So now you know the power of Instagram and you know what your overall objective is.
The next question is how you go about populating your account with content that will really stand out and get noticed.
Of course, the majority of your content is going to be photos. The good news here is that you won’t need a powerful camera to create these photos and can instead do a perfectly good job with a simple phone camera.
Remember, the dimensions of your Instagram photos are relatively small and the filter is going to be able to hide any low resolution anyway. An HD camera will give you more to work with and you should get one if possible – but don’t worry if you don’t have one right away.
What does matter is the subject and what you’re going to be taking photos of? For a brand, this can be a difficult question.
Obvious Instagram caters very well to creating brands and to companies that sell crafts, clothing, ornaments, or anything else that is aesthetically appealing and likely to appeal to an audience that likes beautiful things. If you knit plush toys or design shoes, then you can upload pictures of these to show off your products in a very stylish way. Restaurants and food companies meanwhile can be highly successful in showing images of what they’re cooking or preparing.
Surprisingly, this will also work very well for technology companies, car manufacturers – even companies creating kitchen cutlery.
Technology nerds can get surprisingly excited about some ‘sexy’ new hardware and if you compose the shot correctly, this can be very effective.
Services might also work – whether you show photos of the beautiful websites you’ve helped to create, or you upload images of your team looking over the shoulder of someone working at the computer (for a consultant).
Another angle is to think of the lifestyle and the ‘value proposition’ surrounding your brand. There’s a saying that you ‘don’t sell hats, you sell warm heads. What is the equivalent of your ‘warm head’?
In other words, if your company sells fitness equipment, you can upload photos of the equipment and photos of the lifestyle.
This could mean a photo of a taped and chalked hand, ready to grab a pull-up bar. It could mean a photo of an empty protein shaker, or it could mean a picture of a figure running on the horizon against a sunrise. Maybe it means a picture of someone looking very confident and in great shape on the beach?
If you sell holidays, then your photos should be of exotic locations, people relaxing in pools, and people backpacking across the desert.
This also works for services. If your company offers consultation, legal advice, or accounting… then you might have pictures synonymous with business and success: such as people looking out from their office block on the 20th floor, city lights at night, or hands shaking.
In all these cases, you need to think about making the image look good in itself and you need to think about how it’s going to make the people reading feel.
You need to think about your target demographic and how they want to feel. Ultimately, if your images inspire positive emotions, then you’ll get followers.
A completely different approach to take meanwhile might be to show images of your personal life. This is useful for bloggers and entrepreneurs who want to create a personal brand.
Actors, bloggers, digital marketers, musicians, gurus, YouTube stars, and more all have Instagram accounts that show what they’re getting up to.
The objective here is to allow your fans and followers a glimpse into your lifestyle so they can feel like they know you.
This will build your brand loyalty and your authority and it will make you more likable, thus increasing the chance that someone will buy from you.
While the objective here is to provide an honest insight into your lifestyle though, remember that you also want yourself to appear knowledgeable and if you’re promoting a certain lifestyle or product then you want to imply that this actually works.
What this means, is that you again need to think about the way your photos will make the viewers feel.
Try and showcase your lifestyle in a way that makes it seem desirable and that makes you seem successful and confident – this will make your followers more likely to want to listen to your advice.
Selfies are really popular on Instagram of course and this is the perfect place to use them.
Finally, note that your Instagram content can also be designed to provide value as information or as entertainment.
A great example of this would be a restaurant that also provided recipe ideas, or perhaps a clothing company that offered style suggestions and tips.
Many people follow fashion accounts on Instagram to get ideas for clothes combinations as well as inspiration regarding good outfits and looks.
You can also provide inspiration via Instagram, tips, news, ideas for nights out… Think about what fits with your brand and how you can deliver useful information in a visual format
How to Take Amazing Photos
Taking amazing photos is something that requires practice, something of a creative eye, and a bit of luck. We’re not going to be able to cover the entire topic here but we can nevertheless provide a few tips that will help.
For starters then, make sure that you always think about your foreground, your middle ground, and your background.
Think about your composition as well in terms of where the ‘subject’ (focus) of your photo is and what the background is like around this point. From there, try mixing things up and making them more interesting.
‘Interesting’ is the important word here because often a lot of pictures simply are not interesting. Look at most people’s holiday snaps for instance and they will consist of people standing, cross-armed, in front of some kind of backdrop.
This is such a generic picture that it is completely boring – and with no reference for scale, it’s impossible to get a sense of what it felt like to be there – they may as well be in front of a green screen!
Meanwhile, the front-on shot of that person, smiling awkwardly, evokes no emotion and isn’t particularly flattering.
So what could you do to make that picture look more interesting? For starters, you might move the focal point slightly. How about putting the person on the left of the image, or on the right? How about twisting the camera slightly?
You can also get lower down and take the shot from underneath in order to make the person look bigger and to create even more of a sense of scale.
Next, you would think about creating depth and three dimensions. To do this, you might decide to add something in the foreground and keep it out of focus – how about a leaf on a tree for instance?
Or even a blade of grass? Having something lead into the background from the foreground is another great way to create depth and scale – such as a garden path.
Instead of having the person looking at the camera, why not have them gazing wistfully into the distance? Sitting on a ledge? Or relaxing in the sun? This evokes much more emotion and makes it easier for the viewer to imagine being there.
You can also have them doing something more interesting and perhaps interacting with the environment – they could be leaning against a tree for instance, or they could have a leg up on a rock. This also provides something else to give a sense of scale and perspective.
Blurring out the background is also an option and you can do this by zooming in on your subject and then focusing on them – some cameras have a function called ‘macros’ especially for this, while phone cameras will often let you double tap on the item you want to focus in on.
While taking these photos, you also need to think about the lighting. Lighting is something that amateur photographers will often forget but it makes a huge difference and can make a picture much more flattering (or less so) for the person in it.
Aim for ‘Rembrandt lighting’ which means you’ll be lighting the photo from the side so that half of the person’s face is lit. This creates more dynamic and interesting shadows.
Always avoid having the light source behind the subject as this creates glare – the exception is when you’re purposefully creating a silhouette effect or a glare effect.
When you’re taking photos of your activities, try to find items that tell a bigger story. For instance, if you want to tell the story of a party, then often you can do this with a half-empty glass of wine with some lipstick on it and perhaps the innards of a party popper.
Want to evoke the feeling of working into the night? Instead of taking a photo of you working into the night, how about a photo of your keyboard next to a mug of coffee, lit by a desk lamp spotlight?
These kinds of photos are far more interesting and poetic than photos that are ‘on the nose.
Now comes one of the most important aspects of Instagram which can completely make or break your photos, regardless of how good they were, to begin with. Filters essentially apply a collection of effects to your pictures, altering the contrast, warmth, saturation, sharpness, blur, and more. Others might also apply effects like sepia or black and white.
Each filter also tends to be particularly useful for evoking a particular theme or expressing an idea. Some make your image look vintage or retro, others make your image look more elegant or artistic. You need to think about what you want to achieve with your photo.
The secret to using filters and effects well?
That would be: less is more. If you ‘overdo’ your use of filters then this can end up looking cheap – as though you can’t take good photos on your own. At the same time, it can seem as though you’re overexcited with all the options and that you’re thus trying to get as many in at once as possible That said, using one of the filters occasionally when you think your picture could benefit from looking a little retro, a little vintage, or a little artsy is a great way to keep things fresh.
Likewise, you should use blurs to make your camera look more impressive than it really is, or to highlight certain points of interest in your pictures. Tilt-shifting is also a good choice a lot of the time.
A lot of scenery pictures look even better when you slightly turn up the saturation.
Videos for Instagram
Another great feature on Instagram is the ability to upload short videos, which is somewhat similar to Vine or to Snapchat.
You can use this to talk directly to your viewers, to tell a short story, or to convey something that you can’t put across in words – you can even place a small advert here – though again you don’t want it to be too ‘on the nose in terms of marketing.
Something that’s currently very popular is using an app called ‘Lapse It. As you may have guessed by the name, Lapse It is a time-lapse app which means it will ‘film’ you for a while by taking photos once every 1, 10, 60, etc. seconds. This then creates a video that shows you changing position rapidly and which can tell a much better story in a few seconds than a regular video.
Lapse It can be used for instance to show you and your friends playing in the sea or on the beach if your video is about travel, it can be used to show time passing while you work at the computer, it could be used to show a workout in a short space of time… etc.
You could have the very best photos in the world though; if no one looked at them it wouldn’t help you much!
In other words, you need to ensure you’re providing a way for your visitors to find your content and the best way to do that is with tags.
Tags tell people what your photos are about and they can be used for comic effect or to make interesting observations.
At the same time though, your tags are also about getting found in the first place – so what you need to ask is what people are likely to search and what isn’t already too crowded.
If you are in amazing shape and trying to promote your protein shake, then uploading a photo of yourself topless after a workout is a great way to get tons of exposure.
But this depends entirely on the tags you use. If you add the tag ‘#fitness’ for instance, then you shouldn’t expect it to bring you any views. Why?
Because this tag is just too popular and too widely used, in other words, hundreds or even thoughts of people upload photos with this tag every few minutes and as such, your image will be buried as soon as you upload it.
On the other hand ‘#bossingit’ is probably a bit too obscure and unlikely to get searched for often at all.
So instead, you might think of something like #obliques which is a little less overcrowded but still popular, maybe #washboardabs, or maybe #gymmotivation. If you’re unsure, then do a search beforehand to see which tags are performing well for other people but aren’t overly crowded.
Growing Your Following
Instagram is highly powerful and a fantastic tool for growing your brand and getting more attention for your products, services, and ethos.
What Instagram is not though is magic. In other words, this isn’t a case of ‘build it and they will come. If you want to grow your audience and if you want to expand your reach, you need to put in the time and effort to get more people to find your account and to get more people to follow it.
The first way to do this is by using the right tags and by posting regularly. This way, you’ll create more opportunities for people to find you on Instagram and you’ll bring more and more people to your page.
At the same time though, you can also rely on a few smart tricks to bring in even more viewers…
Your Target Audience-Know them
The success of your account is largely going to come down to how ‘on the money you are with your tone, message, and photos. In other words, are you uploading the kind of stuff that your target audience wants to see? Do you ‘get’ them?
The key to getting this right is taking some time to do the market research upfront. In other words, you shouldn’t just ‘guess’ who your audience is and what they’re interested in: you need to get out there and do the research.
There are a number of ways you can accomplish this. One is simply to poll your customers and get them to tell you what sort of things they like.
Another useful trick is to look at the popular Instagram accounts of your competition. What are they posting that’s helping them to do so well? Likewise, which other Instagram accounts are your customers following? This can also lead you to some tips and suggestions you can take on board.
Another big key to success is to stay consistent with your message and with your content.
In other words, if you have decided to make your Instagram account a place where people can pick up fashion advice then keep it that way.
Don’t suddenly veer into new territory by uploading a picture of you out with your friends or on holiday. Likewise, if your account is all about fitness, don’t upload a picture of your beer.
It’s fine to reach out from your direct niche from time to time but do keep in mind that you should always keep your target audience and your message in mind when deciding whether or not to upload any new content.
Integrating Instagram With Your Website
You can promote your Instagram account through your website in a number of ways.
The best way though is to consider adding a widget to your website which will show your most recent Instagram images. This has numerous advantages.
For starters, it provides your website with a stream of regularly updated content that will ensure that it always looks populated and doesn’t become a ‘ghost website’ (it’s highly unprofessional to have a website and then never update it).
At the same time, it provides your site with something visual and personal – again great if you’re promoting a personal brand. Moreover, though, it can lead to people who visit your site directly following you on Instagram.
This is highly valuable when you think of your website like a sieve: all those people who visit, leave, and don’t come back are effectively lost to you forever and you can no longer market to them. But when you have them following you on some kind of social media, you’ll then be able to approach them again giving yourself multiple opportunities to turn them into leads and customers.
You should also include a link to your main Instagram account somewhere on the site. Many WordPress themes come with buttons linking out to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube along the top portion of the site.
Instagram and Other Social Media
Likewise, you can also integrate your social media accounts with Instagram and you should. Luckily, Instagram makes this very easy by allowing you to tick the other accounts you want to share when you upload.
This way you can easily have your Instagram posts appear on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. as well. When writing your description and tag, think about how this will play on your other social media.
For accounts that aren’t integrated with Instagram, you can use the awesome tool ‘IFTTT’. IFTTT stands for ‘If This, Then That’ and it allows you to link all kinds of different social media accounts, mobile apps, and web apps so that an action on one leads to a result on another
So for instance, this might mean that when you upload something to Instagram, it automatically gets uploaded to your WordPress site as well as a new post. This can also be useful for a host of other things – for instance, you can get all your Instagram images to be added to DropBox as well so that you have them backed up.
So sharing across accounts is easy. At the same time though, you should also think about updating your various social media profiles so that they all feature consistent branding.
Make sure that on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. your cover image and your profile image are consistent and that they include your logo. Likewise, use the same username so that there’s no confusion.
Finally – and this is something that will work on your website too – don’t be afraid to outright ask your followers on other social media to start following you on Instagram too.
Getting People Involved
Another strategy that businesses use to increase their follower count on Instagram is to try and get their existing audience to help them attract more people. There are a number of ways that this can be done
One great way to do this is to run a contest. Here, you will simply offer a prize for people taking a certain picture and uploading it with a tag. If you have a product such as a smartphone for instance, then you can ask your followers to post photos of themselves on your smartphone.
If you have a certain item of clothing or a pair of shoes, then you can have a ‘fashion contest’ and get your followers to post their outfit combinations that revolve around the item that you sell. They then simply tag your brand in the picture, or they use a particular hashtag and you assess the winners and award a prize.
This is fantastic for you because if you get lots of people to join in you can gain huge exposure across the participants’ networks. At the same time, they will be engaging with you, they’ll be showing off your product in dynamic photos and they’ll generally be acting like ambassadors for your brand – it’s the perfect scenario!
Featuring User’s Images
Another option is simply to occasionally feature the images of other customers. This way, you just say that the best images that you tagged in that have a certain tag, you will ‘regram’ for your audience.
This is fun exposure for them but for you, it means you’ll consistently have a large number of users engaging with your brand and linking to it. This is a little like a low-level contest that will go on continuously.
Caption contests are a great way to get people to engage with your photos and comment below, which in turn will help to make your account look active and will get you more likes. Just take an obscure picture and then add ‘Caption contest!!’ in the description.
As a side note, getting likes (which look like a heart on Instagram) is a powerful strategy on Instagram as it will help you to get seen by more people. That’s because there is a section on Instagram where you can see all the content that your friends on there have liked. This means that if people like your photos, they will show up in that section for more other people.
Commenting, Liking and Following
If you want to take a more active approach to grow your network, then another thing you can do is comment on other people’s images, like them, and follow people. Remember earlier we said that 65% of Instagram users find this flattering?
This also plays to one of the big strengths of Instagram in particular – which is its highly narcissistic nature. That is to say, if you should like a picture someone has taken on Instagram, they will almost always be at least intrigued enough to look into your username and see what you have on your account.
If they like what they see, they might just follow. The same goes for commenting (especially if you say something kind and/or witty) and for following (which works best if that person is clearly directly in your target demographic).
So an active form of marketing you can do on Instagram is simply to browse through images that have been recently uploaded by looking for hashtags relevant to your brand and then comment, like and follow the people you find that way.
As a result, you’ll find that you generate some interest and some significant new followers.
Double Tap If…
Want to get more likes? A smart little trick you can use is to upload an image and then add the text ‘If…’
For instance, a picture of Bruce Lee with the text ‘Double Tap if You Think This Man is a Legend’ is likely to get you a huge amount of likes!
The above strategies can be used to try and help you get a large quantity of new followers but this is really just one of two big ways you can work with other users on Instagram. The other big way is to stop focusing on quantity and instead narrow down and focus on quality.
This is what’s known as ‘influencer marketing. Influencer marketing means that you find someone who already has a large following on your chosen social platform and who has established themselves as an authority.
These people will have the ability to sway the opinions of large groups of followers – which is where you eventually want to be. Instead of spending months or years trying to reach this point then, instead, why not piggyback on the success of someone who has already gotten there?
In other words, why not see if you can’t get someone to post on your behalf to their audience? Of course, there needs to be something ‘in it for them and this could mean that you pay them, that you promote them in exchange for them promoting you (like an adswap) or you could just try targeting influential members of the public and hope that they’ll like your brand enough to do it for free.
One tool you can use to this end is Instagram Direct, which is essentially a way of sending a picture to an individual user.
This is a great way to show an influencer something that you’ve done that they might be interested in, or that you think their audience might be interested in. If you’re lucky, they may give you a shoutout!
Real World Networking
Very often social media marketing can become even more effective when you combine it with real-world networking. This is certainly true of LinkedIn and it’s very true of Instagram.
a great example of how this can work comes not from Instagram but from Twitter. Do you know what the most retweeted tweet of all time is? That would be the selfie that Ellen Degeneres took at the Oscars and which featured the likes of Brad Pitt, Bradley Cooper, Kevin Spacey, and Angelina Jolie.
Why was this picture so successful? No doubt because each of those stars would also have retweeted it and that this would then in turn have been retweeted by many of their collective millions of fans.
What does all this have to do with Instagram? Simple: if you can bag a selfie with yourself and someone who has a fair amount of clout, then you have a legitimate excuse to tag them and include them in your marketing. As a result, your content will then be seen by all of their followers which can then lead to lots more people following you.
This is one of the few ways you can almost guarantee that you will get to partake in influencer marketing and it almost doesn’t require their actual participation!
This is a very big and important reason to go to networking events if you aren’t already! If you go to events where you’re likely to meet lots of other marketers, you’ll potentially be able to gain access to all their followers through social media!
How Are Businesses Actually Using Instagram?
Creating great photos to promote your product or service is the basic strategy that pretty much any business will use to promote itself online. But there are other more inventive things you can do here as well.
At the same time, it can certainly be helpful to look at other companies to see how their Instagram account is being used for inspiration. Here are some examples of companies that are using Instagram well then…
Sharpie, Red Bull, Starbucks, Beyond the Weak, L.A. Clippers, Target Style
Local Marketing with Instagram
A lot of what we’ve looked at here will work particularly well for online businesses. Ecommerce stores have a lot to gain from Instagram because they can highlight products that are just a few clicks away for their followers.
Likewise, bloggers can use Instagram to grow their personal brand and to help their followers and fans feel connected.
But it can also have a particular use for local businesses. If you have a chip shop, a hairdresser, or anything else, then you might want to alter your strategy slightly but it can still be very effective.
The first thing to consider using here is the location tag. You can tag your images by location and this then allows people nearby to find them.
This is a great way to improve your chances of being found for the specific target demographic that you’re aiming for.
After all, if you run a hair salon then there’s not really much point in you having followers all around the world unless you’re planning on franchising soon!
Another tip is to use local hashtags. People will often look for hashtags in their local area and this is a great way to discover things that are going on. It works on Twitter too, so if you also share your posts on Twitter you can bring people in this way.
Likewise, you should search for local hashtags regularly and then comment on and like the pictures that you find. This works particularly well for tourist attractions. Why? Because when we travel, we will actually be more likely to use local hashtags.
You don’t tend to put your location as a tag in every single one of your photos at home – but if you’re visiting another part of the country you’re more likely to use those hashtags. If you then see that your photo has been liked or commented on by ‘Nights Out in Buckinghamshire’ then you might be inclined to have a look and see if it’s something that might interest you!
And remember: real-world networking also works very well when it comes to Instagram. If you run a local business, then chances are that you will interact with lots of customers who have Instagram accounts on a face-to-face basis – and they will likewise probably have a large number of local followers. If you have a customer come into your store then, ask them to follow you on Twitter.
Better yet – get a photo with them in it and then tag them in it! This can also be a fantastic way to promote your product. So for instance, if you run a hair salon, then why not take a picture of each of your customers with their new hair and tag them in it? Ask their permission first of course but you’ll likely find that most people are more than willing to agree to be featured.
This way, all their friends in the local area will see what a good job you’ve done and will be more likely to get in touch if they want a haircut. This also works for restaurants – why not take photos of your guests and ask if you can tag them? Or tell them to see their pictures on your Instagram account? This gives them a great reason to seek you out and start following you.
You can do the same in clubs and bars too, for organized events and much more!
Note here that people are far more likely to agree to be tagged, to add you on Instagram, and to generally take part if you take the effort to get to know them and to be friendly when they come into your store.
If you go into a shop, buy a product and then leave, you’ll likely ignore any offer to follow them on Instagram. But if that store owner takes an interest in you, if they go the extra mile to help you find the perfect product, if they introduce themselves by name…
then those people will often feel far more inclined to follow you or to take part in your promotions. If nothing else they will often do so simply out of politeness!
This is a key fact to realize in all of your marketing online – it should be a real extension of who you are and of what you want to portray.
Analyzing Your Instagram Work
Now you have all the information you need to start running a highly effective Instagram campaign that helps to add value to your business, that will send the message you want to send, and will bring many more followers to your brand.
This is a highly effective tool and if you follow these tips to the letter, you’ll find it offers an amazing ROI.
But while you have a lot of information now, that doesn’t guarantee that your strategy is going to be flawless right from the start. In fact, it is still highly unlikely that this will be the case.
What’s more likely is that you’ll start off slowly, make lots of mistakes, and generally take an awfully long time to develop a really big following.
The point is: to be successful you really need to spend some time knee-deep in Instagram marketing to learn what works and what doesn’t. This means giving it a go, looking at what works and what doesn’t, and then gradually honing and improving your strategies and your offerings.
This is key in any area of internet marketing. Getting feedback, analyzing your data, and looking at what works is how you evolve your strategy to become optimized for the market that you’re in.
Unfortunately, when you compare Instagram to something like Google AdWords, the tools available for assessing your performance are relatively lacking.
You just don’t have access to the same level of data that you do with those tools. So how do you get around this and continue to improve your Instagram marketing?
One method is simply to pay attention and take notes. Compare what is working with what isn’t and take note of which hashtags bring in the most hits.
Here’s one great thing about Instagram: there’s no reason that you can’t keep using the same hashtags over and over again.
In other words, if you’ve uploaded an image that has gone mad on Instagram with a certain hashtag, then there’s no reason that you can’t use the exact same hashtags and expect to get roughly the same response!
Remember the way that Instagram works means that your goals are going to be slightly different here versus using a channel like Facebook.
In other words, your aim is not to get direct conversions or traffic necessarily. So don’t use that as a metric to measure your success. Instead, look at your likes, your follows and your general engagement to see what’s working.
there you have it! That’s everything you could possibly need to know about Instagram marketing in order to achieve true excellence.
At this point, you know what Instagram is, how it works and how to use the myriad features and options to your advantage. What’s more though, you also have some insight as to the psychology of Instagram and you know some of the advanced techniques you can use to hack your growth and explode onto the scene.
To round it all off then, let’s structure all that information into a plan that can really work for you and that you can adapt to suit your brand.
Your Instagram Marketing Plan
Step 1. Identify Your Market, Create Your Brand
To start with you need to find who it is that you’re marketing to and you need to know what your message is.
This is important because it will tell you how you are going to go about creating your image on Instagram and it will tell you what kind of content you should be uploading.
Think about lifestyles and messages and try to evoke what your brand represents as well as what it produces.
Likewise, ensure you have a strong identity with a recognizable logo and then use this across all your social media efforts. Research the competition too and survey your existing customers.
Step 2. Decide What Kind of Channel You Are, Begin Uploading Content
Decide if you’re interested in creating a personal brand, or if you’re about promoting specific artistic products.
Likewise, choose whether you want to upload images that are abstract and that broadly paint a picture of a lifestyle, or whether you want to upload images that provide some kind of value or ‘tips’ for instance.
Try different hashtags and make sure you are posting with ones that will bring in new traffic.
Step 3. Be Consistent, Do Promotion, Synergize Across Social Media and Your Website
Keep your content coming and meanwhile make sure that you are sharing to other social media accounts, that you promote your Instagram on there and that you outright ask people to follow you.
Meanwhile, research people posting images in your niche and follow/like their work. Comment on other images and add a widget to your own site.
All these activities will ensure a steady trickle of new users which will gain momentum over time.
Step 4. Run Contests, Use Local Marketing and Get People Involved
You should also work to try and motivate your existing followers to grow your audience further.
Running contests, getting people to comment (using caption contests for instance), and sharing the images that other users have uploaded are all great ways to get people to add to your account and to stay lively and engaged.
You should also use local marketing by location tagging your images and by using local hashtags. If you’re local then you should also get your customers involved as they come in – take photos of them and ask them to tag you in their pictures.Influencer marketing can also help a great deal. Get people behind your message and leverage the groundwork that other individuals and brands have done before you.
Instagram Marketing Dos and Don'ts
Finally, consider these vital Instagram marketing ‘dos and don’ts’ to guide you as you head forward in your efforts.
DO engage with your audience, respond to comments, and generally stay active.
Don't let your account become a ghost town with no new photos and no new comments or likes.
DO use your real-world networking to help enhance your Instagram efforts.
Don't upload content that doesn’t gel with your mission statement, your tone, or your niche. A consistent and strong brand identity is key.
DO put real thought into your images.
Don't be too sales or pushy. Instagram is not the place for that.
DO consider using stock images when you’re at a loss.
Don't measure your success based on conversions – Instagram is about art, expression, and the personal touch.
DO create a good logo to use across all your social media.
DO think about the lifestyle you want to portray and the emotion behind that.
DO look for the beauty and the artistic opportunity in everyday activities.
Instagram is about finding beauty in the mundane. From a business perspective then, that means showing what’s beautiful, sexy, inspirational, or desirable about your business and what you offer.
So ask yourself: what do you offer? Do you offer people fitness, health, confidence happiness? Do you offer them indulgence, travel, or taste? Or do you provide opportunities, success, and wealth?
Tap into the emotion behind your own brand and expose that through Instagram – then use that platform to help other people get as excited about your message as you are. That’s how you do Instagram marketing right?