This is a contributed post by Devin Pickell, a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd
In addition to being one of the most popular photo sharing platforms in the world, Instagram has established itself as a business-friendly social environment.
More than 1 billion users are active on the platform every month, with 80 percent of them following at least one business account. Instagram has also drastically weakened Snapchat’s stronghold on photo-first social media, and this is evident in Snap Inc.’s lagging user growth.
Although Instagram is still a place to get your daily fix of cat and dog pictures, it’s impossible to ignore its usefulness for businesses. This is why more marketers have made Instagram an integral part of their social media marketing strategy.
But there’s a catch, right?
Just hopping on Instagram and creating a business account obviously won’t be enough to attract a considerable audience to your brand. Instagram marketing is a long-term strategy, and results will rarely be immediate.
So, is creating an Instagram business account even worth your time? Are there other social media platforms to consider first? Let’s start with a quick rundown of Instagram marketing, then determine if Instagram is the right platform for your business.
From scrolling through your photo feed to getting lost in a seemingly endless explore page, Instagram was designed in a way to provide a visually-appealing, mobile-first user experience—and this hasn’t changed since the app’s earliest days.
In 2016, however, Instagram decided to make its platform more approachable for businesses looking for new ways to promote a product or service. Businesses could purchase ad space on a user’s feed by targeting them based on age, gender, location, interests, and other data shared with Instagram.
Now, it seems like Instagram is rolling out new features every other month, and users are utilizing these features in a variety of ways. Here are some recent features that have been extremely useful for businesses and content creators.
One of Instagram’s newest features is IGTV, and it’s essentially Instagram’s answer to YouTube. IGTV lets businesses and content creators craft long-form, vertically formatted video content and upload on a regular basis.
These videos are designed in a way to replicate an everyday experience watching television and flipping through channels. Businesses can brand their IGTV channel, and place multiple links throughout content to drive traffic toward a website or landing page.
Going live has been one of the more creative ways to engage with users over social media in recent years.
Live streaming on Instagram is versatile, and can be used to generate buzz around your business. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Announce a new product or app feature over Instagram live, giving viewers that “you heard it here first” feeling. If you want to be even more creative, follow up the announcement with a product demo.
- Host a contest or product giveaway through Instagram live, and prompt users to comment in your live feed for a chance to win. You might get an awesome shout out later on from the winning viewer.
- Host a live Q&A session with your viewers. Putting customer questions and concerns first will help humanize your brand. Bringing company leadership out into the spotlight also allows for transparency.
In addition to providing businesses and content creators with advertising options on user’s home feeds, Instagram introduced its “stories” feature in 2016.
Whether or not it was a direct answer to Snapchat’s success, Instagram stories have skyrocketed in popularity since being implemented. A reported 400 million Instagram accounts post or view a story every day – compared to just 191 million daily active users on Snapchat.
The example above is one way a business can utilize Instagram stories to promote a new product or upcoming event. A website or landing page URL can be embedded in the post if the brand has more than 10,000 followers, and opened after a user swipes up.
Aside from the many content features Instagram has for businesses, another powerful way to promote a brand is through influencer marketing—and this is especially true for the competitive industries of e-commerce and retail.
Welcome to the new wave of celebrity endorsements. Influencers are social media personalities with typically hundreds-of-thousands, if not millions of followers.
Prepare to be floored from what I’m about to say next. Some influencers are paid tens-of-thousands of dollars for their time and stamp of approval on just a single Instagram post.
Even more staggering is the ROI businesses might see from each endorsement. AdWeek reported that marketers receive roughly $6.85 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. This is partially because millennials, a good chunk of Instagram users, are 84 percent more likely to trust a social media influencer than traditional advertisements.
Influencer marketing isn’t slowing down anytime soon. As more businesses look toward trusted social media personalities to promote their products (and sometimes services), the global influencer market could reach $5 to $10 billion over the next five years.
Is Instagram marketing worth it?
Instagram is highly visual and engaging for users who prefer social media built around photo sharing and video content. The interface is also native to mobile, which differentiates Instagram from other social media platforms.
All of this sounds great, but is Instagram really the right social media marketing strategy for your business? Here are five questions to consider first.
- Is your product visually compelling? By now, we know that Instagram is the home for visual content. But can you really capture the value of your product through image or video?
- Do you have the resources for great-looking content? Images and videos that are very high-quality will perform the best on Instagram. Things like lighting, setting, and editing should be considered as well.
- What is the demographic of your target audience? Roughly 71 percent of Instagram’s total users are under the age of 35. If this doesn’t coincide with your target demographic, Instagram might not be worthwhile.
- What are your competitors up to? Simply put, if your competitors are Instagram-savvy, then you should probably consider Instagram marketing.
- What is the industry standard? It might make more sense for a graphic design firm to consider Instagram marketing rather than a construction company. Exceptions can be made if your competitors have taken to Instagram.
Instagram best practices
If, at this point, you’ve been convinced to move forward with an Instagram business account, here are a few best practices to consider:
Embrace a persona
Part of great branding is embracing a persona for your business. Crafting the persona can be difficult, but finding one that falls in line with your mission, company values, and appeals to your target audience can take your brand to the next level.
If you don’t have time to do thorough research on personas or scour through Instagram, social media monitoring software can help capture the buzz around topics and discussions.
Part of social media is discovering new accounts. One of the best ways to put your Instagram business account in front of potential followers is through the use of hashtags.
Klear analyzed 100 million Instagram accounts, and concluded that anywhere from 2-5 hashtags will have the widest reach.
That being said, you should probably do some hashtag research ahead of time. Different hashtags reach different amounts of and varieties of followers. Here’s a list of 5 free hashtag tracking tools to compare the relevance and traffic amount of each hashtag.
Keep your captions brief
A general rule of thumb across all social media platforms is to keep your captions brief. You can double down on this notion for Instagram – especially because your image or video should speak for itself. Sprout Social recommends 138-150 characters as the optimal caption length.
Track your Instagram analytics
Instagram provides its own analytics for business accounts. These analytics reveal everything from views and engagement rates, to swipe directions on your story.
There are many free analytics tools out there, but if you require a more comprehensive look at how users are viewing your content, consider some social media analytics software.
There’s an interesting phenomenon going on with Instagram. Although some social media platforms penalize pages that post too often, the same can’t be said with Instagram.
As a matter of fact, some of the top fashion brands on Instagram post up to 30 times a day and never see a hit in engagement rates. A study by Union Metrics showed this to be true across many Instagram brands.
Here’s a helpful tip: Place consistency over frequency. If you’re a brand that posts 10 times a day, stay consistent with that posting schedule. Random spikes in frequency can confuse (and even annoy) some followers.
What are you waiting for?
It’s time to get posting! Now you’re equipped with some tools and tips to do so in a creative way. Instagram is great at allowing businesses to tell their stories in a visual way, and this is why it shines above other social media platforms.
So, do your next product demo through live stream. Answer questions about a new app feature. Get an influencer endorsement for more website traffic, and build your follower base along the way.
While you’re at it, give ActiveCampaign a follow on Instagram and stay up on the latest news surrounding its marketing automation solution. ActiveCampaign is also a great example of how businesses can use Instagram to humanize its brand.
Devin Pickell is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2 Crowd, generating content for its Learning Hub. He has experience marketing for early-stage startups out of Chicago’s booming tech community. You can follow him on Twitter at @Devin_Pickell and on LinkedIn.