Instagram is a completely unique blend of stunning visuals, storytelling hashtags, content curation opportunities, and real-time marketing which can’t be beat. Marketers who wish to use the platform will need a plan which always works with these unique online marketing tools.
With a little bit of planning, a big heap of creativity, and the right timing your Instagram marketing will succeed. The tips which I’m going to focus on right now include:
- Planning your photos, and general photo-taking related tips.
- Engaging with your Instagram followers.
- Having a hashtag strategy of your own.
Each tactic will have something valuable to add to your overall Instagram marketing campaign, and help your customers better understand your brand, product, or account.
Planning your photos and content creation
If you don’t have a good photo to share on Instagram, you don’t have anything at all. Each social platform has certain strengths, and Instagram is all about images. To succeed, your account needs to choose a theme for the photos it will take and share. Unfocused accounts go nowhere and mean nothing. Take a look at some successful Instagram accounts which have a focus:
- @MyDayWithLeo: Focuses on pretend photos taken with celebrities in real life. It’s bizarre.
- @Cintascotch: An artist who takes ordinary household items and incorporates them into his sketches.
- @TSA: Yes, that TSA. This is dedicated to all the weird things that people try to get onto planes.
All of these accounts were successful because they found a niche and they stuck to it. No one is famous for being completely random. Before you even start your account, figure out what it is you do well, and what it is you can do well over and over and over again.
To look at this from a brand’s perspective, you still need a focus. You can choose:
- Customer-created content of people using your products. You can’t beat customer service which uses actual customer experiences! It can also help to have positive reviews around when people get negative.
- Behind-the-scenes snaps of your team hard at work. This is great for brand storytelling, and to make your customers feel like they’re part of the team.
- Documentary-style content of your products being made. You’ll grow your customer’s appreciation of your product as they learn what goes into it.
- ‘Organization porn,’ which is your products artfully arranged with other items to give people ideas about what to use your products with. There’s an example below from Herschel Supply Co.
The choices for a branded account are just as wide open as any other type of account. All it takes is planning what you’re going to do, and the creativity to do it.
Instagram can teach you …about Instagram
Your followers on Instagram are some of the most valuable assets you have. You can use them to learn more about how your products are viewed, about how people are using them, and about how people feel about your account. Even better, you can use your audience to create content for you so that some of the can be lifted off your shoulders.
Learning more about your followers is all about your text. You need to use calls to action which encourage discussions:
- What do you think of this photo?
- Share if you like this!
- What would you have done differently?
Ask questions and you’ll get answers. Simple as that. If you’re really on the ball, when people take the time to give you a reply you must get back to them. That sort of brand engagement is becoming so important these days. It’s at the point where if you don’t use Instagram and social media for engagement, you will be trash-talked.
Content curation, thanks to your fans, can be fun for all involved. Remember this is social media first, and marketing is always second. The best reason to do some content curation is a contest.
The other way to go with user-generated content is to regram the photos of other users who post about you. One of the best brands at this is Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Who doesn’t like a picture of ice cream on a warm summer day?
They get a piece of content, the photographer gets exposure and more followers. It’s a win for you, and a win for your customer.
Using hashtags on Instagram
First, amateur Instagram users have gotten way, way out of hand with their hashtag use. If you want to look like a professional, use a maximum of five at a time. There are users out there using ten, fifteen, twenty or more. This cannot be the case for anyone who wants to be taken seriously.
For ideas on how to use hashtags on Instagram, try these:
- To organize a contest: Having contests use the hashtag to enter creates a wealth of content, and organizes your contest to choose winners.
- To tell a story: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but several pictures connected with a unique hashtag can tell a whole story.
- To join a trend: Trends come and go on Instagram the same as on any other social media platform. Joining the right trends can help you expose your account to people who are interested in what you do.
- To organize a virtual party: Creating a party online is easy with a hashtag. These are great for live events where you have your followers send out their pictures as they happen while using your hashtag.
Hashtags on Instagram are just as important a listening tool here as they are on Twitter. Without a plan for them you will not have as much organization as you could, and organization is what separates amateurs from professionals. Can you tell which of these posts came from a pro and which came from a complete amateur from the hashtags alone?
D.Rose 2.5 #sneaker #sneakers #sneakerhead #kicks #todayskicks #whatsonyourfeet #nike #nba #igsneakercommunity #sneakersbr #findyourgreatness #instakicks #solecollector #sneakerporn #shoeporn #kicksoncourt #complexkicks #kickroll #seriousbasketball #tenisdodia #allforthegame #brahoops #bringyourgame #adidas
They both use the hashtag #BringYourGame. One, however, seems to use EVERY hashtag vaguely related to their photo, a sure sign of complete unprofessionalism. Yes, you may gain exposure here and there, but in the long run you’ll lose followers as they stop taking you seriously.
Why you would use Instagram for marketing
For those in a photo-rich business, or people who just like to take photos, Instagram is simply the best social media platform there is. Its ability to tell stories through photos, and connect those stories with hashtags, is completely unique. You won’t find it on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.
To get your Instagram marketing off the ground, and start serving your customers there better, you need to:
- Choose a focus for your account, something which is memorable and unique.
- Continue to learn from your customers through calls to action and general engagement.
- Use hashtags to their fullest, but do not go overboard and become a spammer.
Those three points need to form the basis of your Instagram account, otherwise you’ll be sharing your photos to no one. How many words will they be worth then?
About the Author
Ernest is a digital content marketer with a passion for all things social. You can find him blogging over on his website: SMMGuide.co. You’ll find tips, tactics, and techniques for marketing on Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, Facebook, and more!