Our clients appreciate that Instagram is an incredibly important social network. In fact, for many of our clients, Instagram is the difference between potentially picking up a job/making a sale or not. Instagram is not only important for the brick-and-mortar type business, such as retail, but also for smaller online service type businesses and similar. Instagram is one of the most effective brand-building tools available. To make it clear – Instagram is important for all types of business.
Instagram has become a tool that regular people use daily to judge the visual presence of a business. A business without an Instagram presence risks missing out on a huge audience. Mary Meeker’s report on Internet trends suggests that Instagram is the most important social network for American teenagers. Making use of Instagram, and doing so well, can open up a new world of opportunities for your business.
Just how important is Instagram? A recent post by Global Web Index suggests that globally, Instagram’s usage has doubled in the last two years.
Hopefully we’ve done enough to convince you that your business should be on Instagram. The next question is “how”. Read on for information in the process of developing an Instagram strategy, account set up, and the best practices for your brand.
Create your Instagram strategy
Any good marketing strategy must first start with research. The best way to research Instagram is to use Instagram! Check out other businesses like yours to get a feel of what your competitors are doing. However, don’t just restrict yourself to just competitors – look at brands you know and interact with in your personal life. Looking at other brands can help inspire your future Instagram strategy.
Once you’re familiar with Instagram, you can begin to put together your Instagram strategy. You’ll need to establish your overall goals and your Instagram goals should relate to your business goals. For example:
- Increase product sales
- Increase traffic to your website/blog/shop
- Increase brand awareness
- Increase fan base.
Your Instagram goals should all be achievable and more importantly; measurable. You shouldn’t, for example, set a goal of selling to an international audience if you cannot ship your product/service overseas. By creating goals that are measurable, you allow yourself to track your progress. Following the SMART method can help if you’re not already clear on what your goals are:
Different social media platforms have their own strengths in relation to certain goals. Instagram’s strength is visual and therefore your goals should tie into visual statements. To help focus your Instagram strategy further you might want to create a mission statement for your brand such as:
We will use Instagram for (purpose) in order to help (business goal).
It’s now time to move onto your content strategy. A content strategy should include:
- Deciding how often you post
- Deciding what time of day you post
- Choosing your hashtag approach
- Deciding your overall theme
On Instagram, you should maintain a regular post schedule. From our experience we suggest posting once every 24-48 hours. While it’s important you appear to be active, you really want to avoid bombarding your followers with too many posts!
Choosing the time of day to post is largely dependent on your audience. You may have to do some market testing to figure out when works best for you. A great way to track user engagement is by using Iconosquare. You can use the insights from Iconosquare to then put together a content calendar.
Ensure you make the most of the ability to add non-visual elements to your Instagram posts. Non-visual elements such as hashtags, tags, and captions add another layer to your posts. A popular technique used by brands is the branded hashtag. A branded hashtag is not simply your company name with a hashtag in front of it #harveyinsights. It’s about using a hashtag that embodies your Instagram brand. A great branded hashtag will encourage your followers to post photos in relation to it and you will reap the benefit of increased exposure to your followers’ followers. See Michael Patterson’s post on 7 examples of successful hashtag campaigns.
Finally, choosing the general theme for your Instagram account is really important so we will look into that in more detail:
Building your Instagram brand
Instagram is all about the visual story, so your brand should reflect itself through a consistent theme. First, think about the visual style you want for your Instagram brand. Some style ideas include:
- Choosing a filter that you will use consistently
- Choosing the size and shape of your images – you don’t have to use the standard square shape – check out our 5 tips for taking great Instagram photos.
Consistency will allow you to establish a style that will be immediately recognisable to your followers. The underlying goal of Instagram is to capture your users’ attention long enough that the engage with your posts. The more recognisable your posts are the better. Take a look at our guide on 8 tips to gain Instagram followers and boost engagement. Juliet Zulu is a a full-service creative agency located in sunny Portland, Oregon. They prescribe to the ethos of thinking outside the box:
To clarify, you don’t have to rely solely on the editing features available in Instagram. There are lots of free photo editing apps that you can use to stamp your style on your photos – refer back to our guide for more information.
You’ll have to decide what content your photos will focus on. Hopefully this will be self-explanatory as it will be in relation to your business. However, not all brands have the luxury of self-defined content so you may have to think outside the box.
If you’re unsure of how to visually represent your brand, revert back to researching your competitors. Or, take a look at your followers and see what they’re posting. See if you can recognise any general themes or trends and then visually reflect them with your own content. A micro-brewery might find their followers are passionate about travel and coffee, so it shares content along these lines. Take @mailchimp for instance:
A great way to generate content is to let your followers do it for you! You can share your followers photos, obviously giving them full credit, in the form of user-generated content. Some of the biggest brands rely heavily on user-generated content. GoPro has essentially cemented it’s place as a global business through this approach:
To conclude, there is no right way to configure your content strategy. Do what feels right and try to stick to a consistent theme.
Setting up your Instagram
Your first step, if you haven’t already done so, is to download the free Instagram app to your device from the Apple Store or Google Play. Once you’ve downloaded the app simply follow the sign up instructions. More information can be found here.
Once you’re signed up to the Instagram app you will be asked to fill out your profile. This step is very important so make sure you take your time and fill it out completely and professionally.
Your username and bio: Instagram maintains a very simply username and bio configuration. When setting up your username you should try to match your Instagram username to that of your other social media profiles, such as Facebook and Twitter. Your real name or the name of your company is the username you should be aiming for.
The only other information that appears that you’ll show on your public profile is your website address and a short bio – up to 150 characters. Your bio give you the chance to succinctly explain what your brand is, what you do, and what your audience can expect from your Instagram profile. While your profile should always be professional, feel free to be warm and ‘fun’ in your bio. The bio is also a great area to note any branded hashtags you’re currently using – don’t forget to update your bio when you launch new campaigns etc.
Your profile photo: Your Instagram profile photo should be your company logo, or a good picture of yourself if you are your product. Again, matching your Instagram profile photo to your other social media profile photos will help users recognise your brand. Remember – your Instagram profile photo will be cropped into a circle by the app! Another thing to note is that although the app will scale your photo to 150 x 150 pixels on mobile, you should ensure the picture is large enough to also look good on the web (180 pixels is a good size). Check Instagram’s guide for changing your profile photo.
Follow people: Lastly, to jumpstart your Instagram presence, you should follow a bunch of users. Find users in your niche, staff profiles (where appropriate), and client’s accounts. Use the hashtag search to find hashtags that relate to your industry and engage with the users who have posted. You can build a following quickly by using this approach.
Bonus tip: It’s sensible/important to have notifications active for your Instagram account. This way you can respond quickly to comments and interact with your audience. Make sure notifications are on on the Instagram app and also on your phone!
Harvey Insights specialises in boosting engagement on Instagram. We use automation to fulfil many of the mundane tasks that are involved with building your Instagram presence. However, there is a lot you can do to build your own brand presence. There are generally four aspects to building your Instagram presence:
- Posting – once you have your profile set up you will be able to start posting photos and engaging with other Instagram users. It’s really important that the photos you post relate to your brand and theme, are high-quality images, and make use of the non-visual aspects.
- Following – find users in your niche, staff profiles (where appropriate), and client’s accounts. Use the hashtag search to find hashtags that relate to your industry and engage with the users who have posted. You can build a following quickly by using this approach.
- Liking – in the same vein as following, you should like photos that are related to your industry and certainly photos that reference your brand. Liking is a great way to boost engagement on your account also. Harvey Insights specialises in helping you to do this around the clock.
- Commenting – commenting allows you to further your brand’s reach. You can comment you branded hashtags, praise users mentioning your brand, or just generally to engage with your audience. Commenting can further solidify your brand.
As mentioned above, the best way to track the performance of your Instagram account is through an app like Iconosquare. Using Iconosquare you are able to track the following metrics:
- follower gain
- view all engagement on your posts
- your most engaged followers
- engagement based on the time you post
- your post history
- the location of your Instagram followers
Final tips for Instagram for business
Here are a few final best practices you can use to excel at Instagram for business:
- Consider running competitions. Through competitions you can ask users to repost one of your photos, comments about your brand, or share one of their own photos tagging your profile.
- Consider collaborating with popular users in your industry. You can ask similar businesses/brands to post one of your photos on their account and you do vice-versa. This builds the profile of both brands in a very simple way. Please note that you can also pay popular accounts to post one of your photos.