This year is set to be a big one for Instagram marketing.
According to Social Media Examiner’s annual report, in 2018 some 69% of marketers plan to increase their investment on the platform and 74% plan to learn more about how to best use the social network.
What’s driving this spike in interest? Largely, a quickly growing audience and considerable popularity with younger consumers: Instagram now has more than 800 million active users, with 71% of US adults ages 18–24 and 72% of US teens ages 13–17 utilizing it.
However, while most marketers understand the power of the platform, actually establishing a successful presence remains a challenge. Many marketers are still unsure about which types of content to post, when to engage, how best to reach audiences, and what the social network’s full range of features is.
To help, here are seven steps that every brand should take in order to make the most of its Instagram marketing efforts:
1. Invest Time in Optimizing Your Business Profile Where should you begin your Instagram efforts?
With your profile. This is because it’s both a key to unlocking important back-end platform features, as well as an essential tool for encouraging consumers to take action.
Before doing anything else on the social network, ensure that you’ve got a business account, not just a regular one (to find out how to do that, watch this video). Business profiles differ in that they give firms a set of tools—advertising options, analytics insights, additional contact information fields (call now, shop now, email, and directions)—that aren’t available to standard users.
Once you have a business profile, invest time in optimizing it. Because Instagram is so visual and light on text, its profiles do much more heavy lifting compared with other social networks. This is a valuable chance to tell your brand story in your bio, engage with a good avatar, and include a link to an external webpage.
2. Focus on High-Quality, Beautiful Visuals What do younger consumers want to see from brands on Instagram?
To find out, parent company Facebook polled 11,000 people ages 13–24 from around the world.
The survey uncovered a clear preference: people want high-quality, beautiful posts. As the researchers put it in the report: “Instagrammers appreciate aesthetic quality in visual content and will often make the effort to transform the banal into a thing of beauty. Brands seeking to engage teens and young adults will want to offer an organic experience by aiming for quality, too. Images and video will ideally be beautiful, thoughtfully composed and artfully presented.”
Keep in mind that your images and videos don’t have to be perfect from the start: Instagram has a range of powerful tools available—including filters and collages—that can help turn content pieces into things of beauty.
3. Share a Mix of Photos, Videos, and Stories Should your brand be posting photos or videos to Instagram?
The answer is both. An analysis by NewsWhip found that average engagement on photo posts increased by 46% last year and the average engagement on video posts increased by 53%. The researchers also found that photos tend to get more likes and videos tend to get more comments.
In other words, users clearly are fans of both types of content and engage with each in different ways. To reach audiences effectively, use a mix.
And don’t forget about Stories. The vanishing content type that Instagram copied from Snapchat has been a smashing success: more than 300 million people are now daily active users.
4. Experiment with Times When You Post Content What are the best days and times to post content to Instagram?
Often the research is contradictory and/or confusing. For example, this report from Sprout Social states: “The best time to post on Instagram is Wednesday at 3 p.m., Thursday at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 to 4 p.m., and Friday at 5 a.m.”
What’s a marketer to make of this odd mix?
The first takeaway is that general rules aren’t very useful. Each brand has a unique audience with unique behaviors and it’s only through trial and error that you’ll find the best schedule for your specific content.
The second takeaway is that the most effective slots are often unexpected. While people do tend to use the platform more on certain days and times, these are also when competition is greatest. By experimenting with when you post, you may find opportunities for higher engagement that you didn’t know existed.
5. Tap Into the Networks of Other Users It’s impossible to talk about Instagram marketing without talking about influencers—and with good reason. The number of sponsored posts has more than doubled on the platform since 2016 and the Instagram influencer market is expected to reach $2.3 billion next year.
What’s powering this incredible growth? Fundamentally, it’s being driven by the fact that brands recognize that the best way to reach larger, and/or targeted, audiences on Instagram is to engage followers beyond their own.
While influencer marketing has its challenges, it’s a highly effective approach on Instagram when executed well. Also, marketers should keep in mind that it’s only a part of a wider range of tactics that engage the networks of other users. For example, creative hashtag campaigns have similar effects in terms of extending reach.
6. Integrate E-Commerce Directly Into Posts Ever wish you could directly connect your posts to e-commerce and specific products?
You can. One of the powerful and relatively new features that’s sometimes missed by marketers is the Shopping on Instagram offering. Once enabled, this lets you create Shopping Posts that allow for the tagging of up to up to five products with details and pricing.
Moreover, you can add a “Shop Now” button to your profile that will bring people directly to your external digital storefront. This means that the barrier between consumers engaging with your posts and purchasing products is now much lower than it has been in the past.
7. Utilize Instagram’s Sophisticated Ad Platform Finally, don’t forget that organic posts are only part of what makes Instagram such a powerful marketing tool.
The platform has a wide range of different ad formats—including photo ads, video ads, Carousel ads, and Stories ads—that enable brands to creatively and effectively engage audiences.
All of these are powered by Facebook’s impressive Ads Manager tool, which gives advertisers precise targeting options, useful performance insights, and robust campaign management capabilities.
Ultimately, by combining optimized organic tactics with Instagram’s e-commerce and paid features, you’ll gain access to a potent marketing channel that enables you to engage large, valuable audiences highly effectively.