It’s not surprising that since Instagram’s launch in 2010, the social media giant has become a popular contender in the online marketing arena. Once sold as a humble picture-sharing website, Instagram has since upgraded it’s offering to also become a video, e-commerce and advertising platform.
While it seems that fashion influencers were the first to notice the marketing power of Instagram, more recently, brands and businesses have invested lots of time and resource into finding ways to communicate with and market to Instagram users. But first, some enticing Instagram statistics:
- Brand follower growth continues to increase from 6% to 8% month on month.
- Seven out of 10 Instagram hashtags are branded.
- 80% of Instagram users follow a business account.
- 30% of users bought something they discovered on Instagram.
So now that we know Instagram is an effective avenue for your brand to invest in. Let’s dig deep and learn how to build your Instagram marketing strategy from scratch.
For more information on setting up your Instagram account read: How to set up your Instagram account and get followers
Step #1: Clarify your goals
It’s one thing to simply “want growth” for your brand, however, like with any goal it’s worth asking yourself a few simple questions before you start building a strategy so that you have a clear direction to follow:
- What do I want Instagram marketing to achieve? Here, you want to pinpoint what you want your Instagram strategy to achieve separate from other marketing campaigns you’re working on. Whether that’s being part of a continuing conversation with your audience (with the help of Instagram Stories) or, becoming an authority figure in your industry through follower growth, by clearly outlining what success looks like, it will be easier to make clearer marketing decisions further down the track.
- Who is my desired audience? By clearly defining your desired audience or demographic you’re then able to accurately perform competitor research and assess what type of content your audience is more likely to engage with based on statistics and figures that are accessible online. From there, you can start asking deeper questions about your audience:
- What kinds of content do they engage with?
- What hashtags are they using and searching for?
- What other online communities are they a part of?
- What other brands are they following?
- What will success look like? Whether it’s converting followers back to your product, increasing interactivity, or growing your follower count, it’s important that you have a clear metric of success that you can work towards as each goal will require a slightly different strategy.
Now that you’ve got clear goals planned, you can start to plan your content.
Step #2: Optimize your Instagram profile
When an Instagram user lands on your profile, you only have a few seconds to provide them with context (what you do) and value (what you can give them). This is what your profile picture, biography, and Instagram feed helps you achieve.
How do you optimize your Instagram profile? Great question! We’ve broken it down into three simple steps:
Pick an eye-catching profile picture
If you’re a business an easy profile picture choice is your logo. This helps build long-term brand recognition. If you’re an influencer or building your personal brand, why not go with an engaging headshot so that your followers can easily put a face to a name? Whichever option you go with, you want to make sure that it gives more context about your brand.
Write a clear biography
An Instagram bio helps users learn more about who you are and what services you offer. To create an Instagram bio with impact, you want to share your brand personality while telling users what value you offer them. You also want to take them further down the marketing funnel and compel them to take an action—whether that’s clicking on a link to your homepage, or getting them to interact further with your Instagram profile.
Curate your Instagram feed
Once you’ve carefully curated your profile picture and your bio, it’s time to start thinking about your Instagram feed. This will be explained in depth later in the article. However, when choosing images it’s important to ensure that they are high-quality, interesting to look at and tell a story. Brands often work with specific color palettes, tones or image series.
Below are some brands that have strong Instagram profiles:
Looking at this Nike’s Instagram, we can see that they have used their logo as the profile image. They have also cleverly constructed an inspiring tagline followed by their famous hashtag #justdoit. Scrolling down, you can also see a clear aesthetic taking place in their feed. All their images are high-quality and feature a diverse group of people being active.
Glossier is another brand with a strong online presence. They have opted for a pastel pink profile picture (which matches the branding of their products) and a simple bio that clearly explains what the brand is, and reveals more about its ethos “skin first, makeup second”. When scrolling through Glossier’s Instagram feed you can clearly see a pattern of colors used, interesting images and a combination of close-up profile and product shots.
National Geographic is known for its wanderlust-eliciting content, and its Instagram page is no different. With a quick glance you can tell what Instagram profile you are on—thanks to their bold logo—and their bio clearly tells you what to expect from them. Their Instagram feed is filled with world-class photography and footage, which is what the brand is known for.
Step #3: Plan your content
Whether you want to focus on high-quality images, user-generated content, Instagram Stories, Instagram Live or IGTV (or all of the above) it’s important that you have a plan for your content. Here are some important factors to consider before going on an uploading frenzy:
Consider your brand guidelines and voice
When building your Instagram presence, you want to ensure that it’s consistent with your companies wider presence.
If you work for a business it’s important to assess whether they have an existing set of branding guidelines. These often outline the visual guidelines the brand likes to use (think color, logo, fonts and image requirements).
Brand guidelines often include the tone and voice the brand likes to use as well. These are all relevant for Instagram—especially because it’s such a visual and curated platform. When thinking about the images you would like to use on your Instagram feed, or the Instagram Stories templates you would like to create, it’s important to stick to the guiding principles your brand has used.
When writing captions, it’s also helpful to consider the voice and tone of your brand and whether your caption is in line with these guidelines.
Build a visual mood board
Marketing tip: Like with any other social platform, it’s important to consistently interact with your followers. To make this easier try and spend enough time sourcing inspiration. The easiest way to do this? An evergrowing mood board. Research is integral to building a successful Instagram presence. When building your mood board, add images, colors, competitor examples, and even inspirational quotes.
Schedule posts in advanced
Instagram is a platform that never sleeps. And as such, it’s important to give your followers a steady flow of content to engage with.
Planning both your regular Instagram feed content along with your Instagram Stories will help you keep things cohesive and clear. To make this easy, many businesses invest in scheduling software—so their not tied to their computer at all times— or you can simply build a content calendar for added visibility.
Consider cross-platform promotion
In order to build a cohesive Instagram strategy, it’s important to consider how you can use Instagram to support other business objectives. Whether that’s supporting a new product promoting an event through Instagram Live, when planning out your Instagram content calendar, it’s helpful to align your strategy with that of the core business goals.
Amplify your content
It’s one thing to post content on Instagram, and another thing to make sure your audiences see it. When planning your Instagram content, think about how you are going to ensure your target demographic are going to find your content. This can be through:
- Location tags
- Internal tags
- User-generated content
- Influencer partnerships
While each post will likely require different marketing strategies, it’s important to incorporate this into the planning from the beginning.
For further ideas on how brands are using Instagram Stories, read: 10 Instagram Story ideas for your business
Step #4: Track your progress
Once you’ve clarified your goals, planned your content, and gone live, now it’s time to see how your implemented strategy performed. In fact, this is one of the most important steps in the process as it allows you to make pivot your strategy and test what works best for your brand.
Delving into the data will help you further understand your followers, and allow you to make more informed marketing decisions are key to understanding your demographic, optimizing your content, and evaluating your overall Instagram marketing performance. Below are some easy ways to track your Instagram strategy:
Study Instagram Analytics
One benefit of using an Instagram Business account is that you have access to their free analytics software. By regularly assessing what photos, videos, and stories performed best—and at which times—you will start to see user patterns that can help inform your strategy moving forward.
If you’re still on a personal Instagram account, there are plenty of analytics applications you can download for free.
Find and test different content types
Once you start to see patterns in your analytics, you can start to group them into content pillars. For example, you may find that posting an inspirational quote on Monday mornings with the tag #MondayMotivation is great for engagement. Or, you may find that your users like to see your products on Thursday evenings via Instagram Stories. By grouping your content, you can start to build a more robust strategy that serves different marketing objectives like sales or brand awareness.
Measure different metrics
Successful metrics can be measured in many different ways. Below are some common measurements marketers look at.
Impressions are the total number of times your post has been seen. This includes:
- When a user has scrolled passed your image in their feed.
- If a user has seen your post and clicked onto your profile
In general, impressions are a good way to assess the overall awareness of your brand and whether you’re posting content at a popular time.
Investigating the reach of your posts is a great way to see how many new eyes are seeing your content. Like impressions, reach also counts the number of views on your content, however, it only counts unique users who haven’t seen your content before.
Engagement refers to the amount of times your post was liked, commented or saved by an Instagram user. Instagram Insights doesn’t include data about your engagement rate, it’s still a very important metric for Instagram marketing. In fact, as a social platform, you could argue that’s it’s one of the most important metrics to consider. Here are a few reasons why:
- Most social media platform’s algorithms highlight content with high engagement
- High engagement is a sign of audience retention
- Engagement is a form of social proofing for your business
- Engagement helps boost brand awareness
Like any platform, growth in followers is a positive sign that your users are engaging with your content and are enjoying the content you’re providing them with. Growing your followers is an impactful way to increase your brand authority and is also a form of social proofing—showing that you are respected in your area of expertise and that you are a popular influence within the social media realm.
Step #5: Keep experimenting
One important point to remember is that like most other social media platforms, Instagram is constantly evolving and changing its algorithm, which means your strategy should also continue to change and evolve. While strategy was once seen as a static rulebook, it has now pivoted to a flexible guide that should always be added to and experimented with.