From a retro filters app to the most influential social app
A picture is worth a thousand… we all know that. Herein begins the successful story of this prominent platform.
The rise and expansion of this social media app have been quite remarkable. Initially launched as an app for sharing photos with artistic and retro filters favorite among young hipsters (remember the old logo?), it has transformed into a powerful marketing tool and an influencer’s haven – with flocks of followers growing every day.
Nowadays you will rarely see any posts with retro filters, or over-filtered. Crisp images depicting details, impressions, and breathtaking photos are dominant on many of the posts and have replaced the vintage filters in most part. Another subtle change regarding the practice of posting of photos – one doesn’t necessarily post pictures taken by their smartphone. But, this goes mostly for personal accounts.
Being currently the most popular social media app that is growing even faster than Facebook, this app is indispensable for any scale of businesses, be it micro or large-scale enterprises. Its usage has doubled from June 2016 to 2018, and in 2018 it reached 1 billion active users per month already.
More than just an image
Instagram is very easy and simple to work with, at the same time providing many useful tools for business promotion and engaging followers. Perhaps therein lies its growing popularity?
Another factor that contributes to its buzz is the demographics of Instagram. Namely, most of Instagram’s population is relatively young and tech-savvy – more than 60% of the American population aged 18-29 have an IG account, and about 40% of the population aged 30-49 also use this network. Of those aged 50-64, about 21% have an account on Instagram.
In order to take advantage of all the tools it offers, you will need a business profile instead of a personal one.
Although one will lose the right to make the posts private and to link multiple Facebook profiles, the benefits of switching to a business profile enormously outreach those not-much-useful options for a business. A business profile will access Instagram Insights and the ability to make sponsored posts. These Instagram insights provide useful data for businesses such as, which content posted works well and which doesn’t. Apart from how their posts perform, they also give insights to their followers, where they are from, age group, gender, changing the number of followers, and the time they are most active. As a business profile, one will have the ability to advertise through sponsored posts (even multi-posts) and promoted stories.
Creating Relevant and Targeted Content
According to statistics, 60% of the users discover new products or services directly through Instagram, and 30% of Instagram users buy a product they’ve found there. That is very encouraging for all the businesses and brands that plan to bring new products on the market.
Posts on Profile
As with any marketing tool, strategy and the quality of the posts are crucial for a successful promotion. Depending on your business type, goals, and target audience brainstorm your Insta-strategy and strive to create a strong impression and identity. Posts and photos need to look professional nevertheless. Users are much easily drawn to a beautiful or intriguing bold photo than to an average image that does not have that professional appeal.
Although your brand is a story, and it may even be a personal one, see this platform as a window display of the best you have to offer and attract customer’s interest.
Nowadays, this may be a challenge because there are so many beautiful images posted and users are scrolling through them fast. So the question remains – how to present your story? Interesting enough, successful brands do not focus on directly presenting their products on their own, but they capture the lifestyle associated with your products and services. Not treating Instagram like a direct sales market place, but more as a lifestyle guide for your followers (thus presenting your brand culture) is a smart strategy that works for most brands.
Stories and Highlights
Instagram has implemented the idea of stories quite successfully. In the beginning, as any new change on a social media app, users were hesitant about their use and effect, but it turned out to be more than just a 24-hour fad feature.
Create polls, engage fans with teaser announcements, share “behind the scenes” moments, get personal with people… Stories offer so many options to discover your fans’ reactions (people love to express their views and opinions quickly and easily) and get to know more about them than the regular posts. And, in case you want to keep the stories for a longer time, like seasonal campaigns or to simply highlight products or events, add them to “Highlights“ and label them accordingly.
Once they’ve reached 10,000 followers, business users can add links to their stories and increase traffic flow to their sites.
Sponsored and Promoted posts
Instagram gives you the possibility to advertise business directly via sponsored and promoted posts on its platform. Promoted posts are very simple, they don’t require a special creation, but it is merely a post of your choice (for example, a post about new product, sale, or a post that already has some cool interactions with followers) that you pay for, to a user or users that don’t follow you yet. Of course, you get to choose the targeting criteria, aiming at users with a specific age, location, or interests. Although these posts appear only on Instagram, by adding an action button and URL you can drive traffic to your website or online shop. Sponsored posts are created outside of the app through an ads system, and therefore they can have a cross-platform reach. You can still use links and action buttons on them and target your audience. Both sponsored and promoted posts are an effective advertising tool on this app.
One of the latest additions of this app is the standalone app IGTV (Instagram TV), which can also be viewed on the Instagram app. It allows users to upload longer videos with more detailed content to a community of 1 billion users. Although it is not highly-popularized at the moment, it is expected that IGTV will continue to grow and that brands will present more in-depth contents to its followers.
You can also share exclusive news and event live, and interact with followers live with the feature of Live videos.
Interact with Your Followers
Your followers are your potential customers, if not customers already. Taking time to respond to their notifications or shout-outs shows that you genuinely care and appreciate their response. Apps like Regram are a quick way to reshare some posts from your followers that are tagging and praising your products.
Also, it may not hurt to peek sometimes on the profiles of some of your most engaged followers. Get to know the lifestyle they want to show, their interests, and location. Use the Insights tool to learn some stats related to the followers to target your audience better.
Real Followers, Not Purchased
It may be tempting to purchase followers, in the beginning, to get the buzz overnight, but building a solid base of faithful followers pays off better in the long run, especially for new emerging businesses. Followers can sense a fake communication, and that can be more damaging than helpful.
Don’t abuse hashtags, create them to be recognized
A post without a hashtag is less visible than a post with one. Adding at least one hashtag will generate about 12.7% more engagement on a post. Yet, we see how hashtags are thrown without much relevance, and even posts with many hashtags don’t create much buzz. That is because hashtags are easy to add and often end up being too generic and lost in the vast sea of posts.
With millions of new posts adding up each day, it is important to create targeted hashtags that will find their way to potential followers and customers. Think about what you want your business to also with among followers, and take time to create your own hashtag, besides the brand name. It is quite alright to use several of them that will index and describe your product or service, but resist the temptation to add tens of generic tags to a post. 70% of the hashtags on Instagram include at least one branded tag.
Since a few months ago, Instagram offered the option to its users to follow not just brands and people, but also hashtags. That means that your hashtagged post will appear twice to a person’s feed that is following you and the relevant hashtag.
Instagram Insights also tracks hashtags, and having a business account lets you see how yours perform in the Impressions (views) section: which of them create more interest, got most views, as well as how your posts got discovered by users (via hashtags, profile views or home section).
Instagram regularly updates its platform, so now you can also add clickable hashtags in your bio. That is great news, meaning that you can announce new products or campaigns and point to the followers to follow that hashtag. You can depend on your goals, promote your community or a cause by merely adding well-thought unique tags to your bio.
To keep a consistent story message and amp up your business recognition, utilize the unique hashtag in offline media too, such as print media, tv or radio commercial.
Don’t push a product promotion for too long
Let’s say you have a new or updated product, and you plan to promote it via Instagram also. Treat your Instagram account as you would any marketing campaign that you’d pay for – plan your posts about a particular thing and the frequency of the posts and stories. But, be flexible if you need to change something on the way.
If your campaign lasts for too long, with dozens of photos in a shorter period of time, your followers may lose interest in following you after a while. People on IG are eager for new things, new events, and engagements, and repeating something for too long will not always yield some extra results.
Monitor how many likes or comments you get with each post about the same product. When these begin to decline, switch to posting new content. You may, after a while remind your followers and do a post or two about that product again.
Offer Promotions to Drive Sales
Promotions such as insider announcements, special offers, limited-time offers, seasonal additions, vouchers of bonuses, would keep followers’ eye peeled to the profile. About 41% of the Instagram users confirm that they follow or would follow a brand that offers some of these perks. Announce these promotions through a post, highlight, story, or even a live video where applicable. Followers (and potential customers) appreciate these announcements as it lets them plan ahead for actions and purchases.
When making a promotion, include a geo-tag to a post, since they generate about 79% more engagement than not including one. Instagram users often search through location and are interested to see new events in their region.
Don’t underestimate the shoutouts
As the word-of-mouth in the offline “real“ world is effective in creating consumers’ opinions, so are the shoutouts in the virtual world. In a shoutout on Instagram, another user is making a post or a story instructing its followers to follow your brand. To this day, this is one of the most effective and sure ways to get more followers and even raise sales, since users are very susceptible to other people’s opinions and recommendations. It takes a bit of networking and willingness if you want a free shoutout. Otherwise, finding and collaborating with a local (or global, depending on your target) influencer is a sure shot. But, keep in mind to interact with followers first, see if they suit the lifestyle of your targeted audience and if they feel comfortable recommending your product Don’t just go straight to those influencers that openly express their willingness to collaborate with brands (in other words, “just pay to post”).
Reach to any audience available
In the end, you shouldn’t consider Instagram only as a B2C or C2C platform. B2B companies also take advantage of this app by creating useful visual content for their audience and increasing their reach.
This so far is the best time to influence consumers through Instagram. Take advantage of the tools described above to market your business very effective, boosting your sales and success.