Instagram: Essential Tips For Marketing Your Business

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Try these essential tips if you’re just getting started with Instagram marketing

Instagram is a brilliant visual medium for businesses, the whole platform is built around sharing photo and video content with people that have a shared in interest in a particular topic, theme, interest or hobby. Even if you have chosen to stay away from the social media platform for your personal life, there’s no denying that millions of people are on Instagram every single day so if you want to catch their attention, it makes sense for your business to be there too.

It also tends to be more of a positive platform than say Facebook or Twitter, which can be bombarded with news stories, opinions or divisive politics.  Instagram was created as a place to share things you love and whilst it can also have it’s fair share of negativity, it’s very good at only showing you stuff you’re genuinely interested in.  This is mainly due to the fact that users can only post their own stuff, rather than sharing or retweeting other people’s posts.

If you’re just venturing onto Instagram for the first time, are thinking about setting up an account, or have already got one going but need some pointers on improving your profile and attracting followers, then read on. These are tips I’ve tried and tested for many years and yes, best practices do change so I’ll keep this article up to date.

These tips should help you formulate your basic marketing strategy for Instagram, regardless of the type of content you’re looking to share.

1. Know your objective

This is the most important tip, before you even make your first post. What are you trying to achieve? There is no point in posting content on any platform just because ‘you think you should’. Reason being, you’ll be unclear on what your measuring for success and will potentially waste your valuable time posting for postings sake. It also makes it harder to come up with content ideas as without a clear objective, you’re brain will be firing all over the place with different ideas or theories.

Decide why you are posting on Instagram and what you’re trying to achieve. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. For example, if you run a restaurant, bar or cafe, it could be that you want to raise awareness of your business to people that live locally in the area. If you own an online shop, it could be that you want to show people the benefits of your products or service. If you’re personal trainer or run a gym, perhaps you want to show people that you know your stuff, so showcase results or help people to start their fitness journey.

Don’t just post because you want Likes. It means nothing if there is no engagement or further action that takes place by you or a potential customer. And we advise against posting nothing but sales messages – none of us want to be constantly sold too. Instagram is a social network – be social and give some value (see point 2) to your followers. The ‘doing business’ with them part comes later.

2. Add value to people’s day

We all know Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google and TikTok and all those other social platforms make money from advertising. However, the reason there is an audience on these platforms in the first place and it isn’t because they love being bombarded with ads. It’s because they are being entertained, educated or inspired. Make sure your Instagram’s content is ticking one of those three boxes. If it doesn’t you need to think about why you are posting it in the first place. Think about how you can genuinely add value to a person’s day when they see your post. This could be something as simple as a tip on how to get more out of one of your products. Food does very well on Instagram because it makes people feel good and excited about eating. Motivational quotes also perform well because they offer a small pick-me-up for the day.

Often you’ll see musicians uploading short videos of performances. This is one of the best examples of adding value. They’re not saying ‘Hey, buy my new album’ but they’re engaging with their audience, making them smile and entertaining them. If they’re consistent with that then the album and concert ticket sales come. They earn the right to then post an announcement about a new tour or track they’ve released on Spotify.

3. Make sure your profile section is filled out

This one seems obvious but there are sooooo many Instagram profiles out there with half completed profiles. There are valuable fields in this section that your followers or potential followers will find useful.

So make sure you including your business name, the product or service category your business is in (e.g. gym, cafe, video games) and your website address.  Don’t have a website? Get one! At least one page with your logo and contact details.

There is a small Bio section on your profile too where you can add a couple of lines about you or your business. Keep it to the point but also try and give a reason to follow your page – e.g. Follow us for healthy food tips. You can use emojis in this section too which can help make your profile a bit more visual beyond just text.

Make sure in Instagram Settings that you’ve set your page as a ‘Business Page’ rather than ‘Personal Profile’. As this allows you to add your contact info too such as an email address or phone number.

With your profile picture, bear in mind it’s going to be viewed on a mobile phone most of the time so make sure it stands out and is clear.

Once you have an Instagram profile, make sure you include a link to it on all your other media – emails, Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn and website. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you.

4. Add context to your photos and videos

When you post a photo or video on Instagram, you get to add some text underneath the photo. This can be as much or as little as you want but make sure you put something! Even if it’s just explaining what the photo is or where it was taken. However, you can go one step further and tell stories. Many people will use this section on Instagram almost as a micro-blogging platform, where they’ll post a few paragraphs of text explaining the full story behind a photo. People love stories, they’re engaging and help people understand more about your business’ values and the personality

5. Use Hashtags

Much has been written about the best use of hashtags for Instagram. How many you should use. Which are the best to use. The golden rule though is keep them relevant. Hashtags let people discover more about a particular topic and on Instagram (and Twitter and LinkedIn) people will follow certain hashtags that they’re interested in, e.g. #marketingtips or #amazingsunsets.

They’re simple to use. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, underneath the text you write, add a couple of hashtags. Not sure which hashtags to use? Just make them relevant to the phot or video your posting. If the photo is of a cake, then it’s #cake. Of course, this is going to be a pretty popular hashtag which lots of people follow but also lots of people post so it’s going to be pretty competitive when it comes to getting someone to spot your post (just checked, there are 80.4 million #cake posts) so include it but also include a few less competitive hashtags such as #cakesofinstagram (3.9 million posts) and #welovecake (55.8k posts). As a rule, we usually aim for 3-4 popular hashtags with millions of posts, 2-3 less competitive tags an 1-2 gambles (those with 100-1000 posts). That way you’re increasing the chance of your post being seen by potential new followers. Stay on topic though, don’t try and fool the system by posting a photo of cake and then using #sunset (unless it is indeed a sunset-themed cake).

A while back it was our advice to use 20-30 hashtags at a time but Instagram’s algorithm is constantly changing and right now, we’d suggest around 3-8. You’ll see some profiles with millions of followers that don’t use hashtags at all but bear in mind, they’ve already amassed their huge followings. If you’re just getting started, you need to help people to find you, and hashtags can really help with this.

6. Document your business journey

Many people are often faced with the ‘what should I post’ question. If you’re not sure of what to post, documenting your business’ journey and progress. You may think, but who wants to know about my new office walls? You’d be surprised, especially if you’re local business talking to local people. It goes back to  point 5, people love a good story. Tell the story behind the new office, ask the public what colours they prefer, show them how your dog walked white gloss all over the new carpet.

7. Be consistent

Whether you want to post 4 times a day, once a day or once a week, decide on a schedule and stick with it. Posting on Instagram when you can’t see any immediate sales benefit can often mean it’s one of the first things you stop doing when you’re having a busy day. If you plan ahead and follow a schedule, you’ll gradually build up momentum over time in the form of followers and engagement (assuming you’re following the other tips outlined here). Instagram likes stability and you’ll find your posts reach more people if you’re sticking to a regular schedule.

8. Tag others in your posts

When you post a photo you can tag other people or businesses that are in the photo. Alternatively you can mention them in the text below the image (e.g. @revthenation). When you do this, they receive a notification. Most people read their notifications so it’s a great way of letting them know you’ve posted something they may be interested in. They may then go on to follow you, comment or like the post which creates engagement. Just make sure you don’t spam people with every single post you put up or they’ll soon block you. Keep it relevant, tag 2-3 people that are either part of the content or other pages that you think may find it interesting. For example, if you post some local business news, tag your local newspaper or community page.

9. Be sociable

Instagram is a social network so don’t just post, get socialising! Sharing content works both ways. You want people to engage with your content so make sure you return the favour by engaging with their content too, it’s a two way exchange. A great way to do this is set yourself a 5 minute timer on your phone once a day. Start the timer then spend that 5 minutes scrolling through your Instagram feed liking and commenting on photos/videos as your business. Don’t just spam people with ‘follow me!’, and be genuine with your comments – if you’re following pages and profiles that you’re genuinely interested in, this shouldn’t be difficult to do. Who knows, they may follow you back, engage with you or at the very least now know your business name.

You can also use the direct message tool on Instagram to chat to other people on Instagram about possible brand collaborations, creating content together or answering requests for help within your area of expertise.

The key here is authenticity.  The objective should genuinely be to add value to the other user.

10. Be patient

Building a genuine, loyal and engaged audience on Instagram takes time and dedication so don’t be disheartened if you’re not getting much engagement from others if you’ve only been doing it for a few months. And definitely don’t fall into the trap of paying someone to generate fake likes or followers for your profile, you’ll spend forever undoing the damage that can cause.

We’ve seen so many people and businesses give up on Instagram and other social media platforms after the first few weeks because they’re not seeing the instant results they expected. Some of the profiles on Instagram with millions of followers have been posting for many years.

The way to think of it is not expect anything in return initially – commit to a year of posting useful, informative, inspirational or entertaining content regularly that your customers and followers will value, write it off as ‘brand awareness’ initially if it makes it easier to focus on and if you follow the other tips here you’ll soon build be on your way to building a community of people actively engaging with your brand so you’re right at the front of their mind when they decide they eventually do want to buy a product or service that you have available.

Got a question about using Instagram for business? You can message us on Instagram(!), tweet us on Twitter or message us on Facebook and we’ll be more than happy to help. Or join our Marketing Tips group on Facebook for more online marketing ideas and tips.

We’re Thanks For All The Shoes, a digital marketing and sales consultancy for businesses and brands that want to succeed online. If you’d like to talk to us more about online marketing, ecommerce stuff or getting your business more customers, please get in touch.

You can also find us on Twitter and Instagram talking marketing, business and sales strategy.

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