This article originally appeared in the April 2015 edition of the Marketing GPS Newsletter.
When Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, it was considered a risky investment. However, three years later, Instagram has an estimated value of $35 billion, making the purchase a valuable move for Mark Zuckerberg. With over 300 million users every month, Instagram has passed Twitter, making it an essential marketing tool. Can your business afford to overlook such a powerful platform?
At its heart, Instagram is a photo sharing app with powerful tools to that allow the user to edit photographs and apply stylized photographic filters before posting to followers. By allowing users to easily share, enhance and even customize photos, Instagram appeals to the visual nature of the web, letting users encapsulate their experiences quickly. Brands are finding this “quick hit” method of visual marketing effective. Sharing behind-the-scenes photos and updating users on new products has allowed brands to extend their reach and influence customers faster than ever before.
Reaching customers effectively on Instagram requires some basic steps:
Tell a Story
Make sure the photos you share for your brand feature your brand’s products, story, and customers. Know your target audience and tailor the photos you share to create cohesive brand messaging.
Use products to tell a story that will be of interest to your audience.
Make sure your photos provide value for your followers.
Instagram offers over 20 photographic filters. Don’t use them all! Choose two or three to provide a more consistent visual experience that helps followers recognize your posts.
Similar to Twitter’s hashtags, Instagram’s hashtags can be a powerful tool in getting your brand’s message points in front of your desired audience. Performing scheduled hashtag searches can help you identify Instagram influencers in your field, as well as helping you discover people already talking about your brand.
Brand-specific hashtags are your best bet for reaching people already interested in your brand.
Industry-specific hashtags can expand your outreach to people interested in your industry.
Trending hashtags can place your photos in front of people that wouldn’t normally see them, but don’t spam a trending hashtag. Only use it if it’s relevant to your content.
Don’t be afraid to go overboard with the hashtags. Eleven or more hashtags isn’t unusual to see on Instagram, and posts with more hashtags get reposted more frequently (Note: Don’t apply this principal to other platforms! The impact of hashtags varies significantly from platform to platform.)
Finally, be certain to research hashtags before using them. Hashtags.org is one of several hashtag-tracking resources. If your organization goes by an acronym, take it a step further and consult a tool like Acronym Finder to explore the likelihood of future hashtag conflicts with another organization or usage of the acronym. The safe route with acronyms is to add a modifier, i.e., #NSIpartners or #NSImarketing instead of just #NSI.
Share High Quality Images
Instagram is all about the photos, so showcasing poorly framed or edited images instantly degrades the interest your potential audience might have. The good news is that posting two or three photos a week is usually more than enough to build a brand’s following.
Use high resolution photos.
Use third-party editing applications to enhance your photos.
Use a mix of Instagram photographic filters and no filters.
Product photos should leave some white space, preferably 1/3 of the picture.
Expand Your Reach
As a Facebook brand, Instagram is already tightly integrated into Facebook, offering quick and easy cross-posting. If you have lots of photos on Instagram, you might also want to integrate your Instagram stream with your website, providing a quick visual boost to your site with minimal effort. The heart of engagement, however, is building followers and interacting with them. Time allowing, you should also follow and engage with influencers in your community.
Make sure you have 5-10 images in your Instagram stream before you begin following people.
Follow influencers, engagers, and other brands.
Like and comment on popular photos. Be sure to mention the creator in your response.
Add questions in your captions that encourage comments.
Reply to comments.
Run hashtag campaigns through your followers and feature them in your photos.
Instagram Direct allows you to contact users directly, but should you? Instagram is still seen as a very personal sharing service, so direct messages aren’t always welcomed.
Press releases and other mass market engagement pieces should only be sent to your top followers.
Send “Thank You” pictures to followers who post photographs of recent purchases or other engagement with your brand.
Coupons and contests can be used to incentivize engagement.
Respect your customer’s privacy and practice moderation in using Instagram Direct.
With the web being a primarily visual experience, the explosive growth of Instagram makes sense. By utilizing this burgeoning social media platform, you can extend your brand’s reach like never before. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture on Instagram could be worth a thousand leads!
Mark is responsible for managing NSI Partners’ social media properties as well as providing support in client outreach and recruiting. Prior to joining NSI Partners, Mark received his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
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A digital marketing company with almost two decades of experience, NSI Partners helps clients achieve robust results in search marketing, social media, and other digital marketing spaces.