If you associate Instagram only with the Kardashians and the Delevignes, then it’s time for a rethink.
Designer clothes, decadent food and sports cars might feature heavily in its galleries, but Instagram’s a more versatile tool than you might expect.
Clutter-free and devoid of ads, it’s one of the more focused social networks around. And with over 300 million active users uploading 70 million photos daily and double-tapping their “likes” 2.5 billion times a day, it’s a marketing tool that just might well end up being your secret weapon.
Find your products’ inner beauty
Before diving into the photographic frenzy of Instagram, consider how you’ll use the platform – and start putting together a plan of attack.
Some products are more photogenic than others, but if you can leverage their “share factor”, you’ll be able to show the world their inner beauty.
Try to come up with an angle your audience will identify with and that they’ll want to share around their networks. If your product’s not a natural beauty, try working a humour angle.
Mine existing content for viral gold
If you’ve had blog posts that have exploded all over the internet or Tweets that just keep on giving, run a critical eye over them to determine their appeal. Were they timely? Topical? Helpful to your audience?
Once you’ve given your own content the once-over, check out your competitors’ pages and social media accounts, and note the content that encourages sharing.
You might just uncover a niche or two that captures people’s imaginations – these can be incorporated into your Instagram posts, priming them for virality.
It’s time to create your user profile
Once you’ve determined Instagram is going to be a handy way to get the word out about your products and you know how you’re going to use the platform, it’s time to sign up.
You’ll need a relevant and memorable username, along with snappy copy to flesh out your user profile. Your copy should match the voice of your brand and convey the kind of experience that will appeal to your target customers.
Instagram won’t let you link an image directly to your product pages, so be sure to include a link to your site in your user info section. You can direct users to this link in the comment section of your posts.
Start learning the ropes
Instagram has a simple, user-friendly interface, but there’s still a learning curve involved, although mostly in terms of the “what” rather than the “how”.
Before you start uploading pics, answer the following:
- What’s the most popular content being shared on Instagram?
- Who are the “influencers” sharing the kind of content you want to share?
- What’s motivating them to share this kind of content?
You can use a service like Websta to get answers to the first two questions.
Using Websta you’ll be able to take a look at the top 100 post tags, which should give you plenty of ideas for tailoring and tagging your content for wide appeal and discoverability.
You can also identify who’s posting content relevant to your products and brand – and build rapport with these influencers by liking and commenting on their posts.
The third point requires you to get inside your audience’s mindset. If your target audience is sharing content tagged #funny, or they’re adding silly comments beneath an image, then humour is clearly a motivating factor and should be incorporated into your posts.
If they’re into #homemade or #handcrafted, then create posts that reflect a homespun, hand-made aesthetic.
Stock up your image library
Your image collection should embody the strategy you’ve come up with based on your research and brand positioning.
You’ll want an assortment of images, including:
- Static product pictures
- “Action” pictures of your products in use
- Lifestyle pics showing your understanding of your audience
Having an established image library will let you quickly respond to topical issues or join in with trending tags or memes.
It’ll also keep you on brand while ensuring that you’re not struggling to find new content – and will let you alternate between different types of images to ensure that your feed never feels stale or samey-samey.
Tip: When posting product pictures, include the name of a product in your image description, along with the text “Link in bio”. That way users will know what to search for when they navigate to your site.
Build an audience of loyal followers
Following everyone under the sun in the hope they’ll follow you back isn’t the way to go on Instagram. On Instagram, quality can lead to quantity.
Selectively follow influential accounts that are relevant to your products and to your target audience, and engage with their photos by liking and commenting. On average you’ll get about a third of these users following you back.
It’s a longer-term play, but you’ll see a boost in your profile visits and engagement statistics – and having an engaged audience is more important than a large number of followers who just scroll right past your posts.
There are no buts about it: no bots
It might be tempting to use automation software to follow, like or respond to other users, but Instagram’s T&Cs specifically forbid this.
That said, it’s possible to use technology to help streamline certain parts of the process. For example, Crowdfire’s web app lets you find “non-followers” you can then manually interact with – hopefully garnering a follow in return.
Don’t force it
If you’re a store owner, you’re going to have busy days and quieter ones. Rather than forcing an unsustainable schedule, pencil in your Instagram usage for those times when things are quiet.
You can also use these quieter times to prepare posts ahead of time so that your account doesn’t go dark for long periods.
If you do find yourself struggling to maintain your account, ask yourself why. You might need to reposition your account’s message so you’re more engaged – this in turn will feel more authentic to your followers, and will help build a more sustainable audience.
Let the momentum build
It might take a while for your follower numbers to build to a point where they start snowballing by themselves, but it’s worth the wait. Keep at it, and your investment will start yielding good returns.
Keep an eye on your stats
With most of your Instagram traffic and activity occurring within the confines of the platform – and largely via mobile apps, it’s a tough ask to expect Google Analytics to be able to provide accurate stats.
However, one thing you can track is the number of users who click on the site link in your user profile, giving you an idea of your Instagram ROI. You can do this by including a Google Analytics campaign tracking URL in your Instagram bio.
If you’ve taken on board all of the above, you’re ready to embark upon your Instagram adventure. Happy snapping and double tapping!