By Neil Patel
It’s crucial for businesses to have an active social media presence to survive in 2018.
No social media marketing strategy is complete without Instagram. It’s become a top platform for brands, advertisers, and consumers alike.
This platform has 800 million monthly active users. And 500 million Instagram profiles are active on a daily basis.
Here’s something else that may surprise you: 70% of Instagram hashtags are branded.
What does that tell you? If you’re not active on Instagram, your competitors definitely are.
Those of you who already have an account set up are on the right track. But just having an Instagram profile doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.
If you want to drive sales and make real money from Instagram, you need to come up with a viable strategy. This guide will steer you in the right direction.
Increase your following
One of the first steps to having a successful Instagram marketing strategy is growing your follower base.
Without lots of followers, you will struggle to get your posts seen. It’s not going to be easy for you to generate sales without followers.
For those of you who just created your Instagram page, it can be intimidating to start with the number zero. But unless you’re a brand new company, you already have customers.
That’s the best place to start looking for followers. Here are the top reasons why users follow brands on social media:
As you can see from these numbers, more than 73% of users say they follow brands on social media because they are interested in the product or service the brands are offering.
Your existing customers are interested in your brand. Tell them about your profile, and ask them to follow you.
Start by sending out messages to your email subscribers. Just make sure you give them an incentive to follow you.
For example, you may send out emails only a few times per month. Tell your subscribers that if they want to see more frequent discounts and promotions, they will find them on Instagram.
If you use this strategy, be sure to follow through with that promise.
In addition to reaching out to your email subscribers, you can have an Instagram badge on your website. Use your other social media channels to promote your Instagram profile as well.
After you take these steps, another great way to get more followers is by following other people. That said, don’t follow random users.
Find followers that fit within your target audience. That’ll be your best bet when it comes to generating new leads and driving sales.
How do you find people that fit within your target market? It’s a bit tricky, and you’ll need to put in some effort. First, you need to find accounts similar to yours.
I’m not saying you need to steal followers from your competitors, although that can work too.
Instead, you can search for Instagram profiles that post content related to your industry. For example, let’s say your company sells hiking and camping equipment.
Check out this profile. The name of the account is Adventure Enthusiasts:
They have more than 132,000 followers. All of their content is related to outdoor locations across the world.
You could assume that people who follow this account would be interested in camping and hiking.
It’s time-consuming, but this will work. Once you find an account like this, go through its followers, and start following people.
The users will get a notification and check out your page. If they like what they see on your profile, which we’ll discuss shortly, they’ll be likely to follow you back.
Once you add tons of new followers, it’s going to be much easier for you to drive sales with your Instagram strategy.
Focus on the first impression of your page
First impressions matter. This statement holds true in the real world as well as the virtual world.
As a marketer, you need to recognize that. It’s the same reason why writing an irresistible blog post introduction is vital to your content strategy.
When an Instagram user clicks on your profile, what’s the first thing they see?
They see your profile picture, biography, and your most recent posts. Going back to our last point about following users to grow your own follower base, when a user clicks your profile, they shouldn’t have any questions.
What I mean by that is this. Your profile should say who you are and what you do.
Having your logo as your profile picture makes the most sense. It’s much more recognizable than a random picture of a person or one of your products.
Here’s an example from the Dollar Shave Club Instagram page:
What is your first impression of this profile?
To me, it’s clear from the beginning who they are. The profile picture is their logo, and their bio explains what they do in greater detail.
They even include a link to a landing page on their website to encourage users to sign up for the service.
Basically, if your brand’s Instagram page doesn’t grab the attention of users, you won’t have much luck getting followers.
For the most part, it’s best to keep everything short, to the point, and professional. Now, you’ll have a greater opportunity to promote your products and ultimately increase your sales.
Post content on a regular basis
If you’re adding a picture or video to your profile only once a month, it’s not an effective strategy. I wouldn’t even call that an active profile.
You want your brand to always be fresh in the minds of your followers.
At the same time, you don’t want to flood user timelines and be perceived as annoying. You need to find a middle ground here.
I wouldn’t recommend posting much more than once per day. If you have lots of content you want to share each day, it’s better to add it to your Instagram story.
If you don’t know how it works, check out my ultimate guide to using Instagram story to promote your business.
How often should you post on Instagram? Research shows that the top brands on Instagram post 1.5 times each day on average. That comes out to about 10 or 11 posts per week.
The timing of these posts is crucial as well. Top brands typically post content during office hours of a standard workweek.
Well, roughly 90% of employees admit to using social media as a distraction while they’re at work.
You need to recognize this and plan the timing of your posts accordingly. Posting on a regular basis increases your exposure and the likelihood that as many people as possible will see your content.
Don’t be too “salsey “
So, we’ve just established you need to post daily. But we haven’t talked about the content of those posts.
Obviously, you want to drive sales. However, that doesn’t mean that everything you post should be a product promotion.
That’ll annoy your followers and end up having the opposite effect of what you’re looking for. Mix up your content.
Be funny. Post pictures of your employees. Just don’t stray too far from your brand image.
While it’s okay to post content that’s not promoting a product, you want to stay away from controversial topics. I’m referring to subjects such as religion, politics, and race. Offending your followers is not going to help you drive sales.
Again, just avoid too many promotional posts. Posting too many promotions is the number one annoying action businesses take on social media, according to users:
Furthermore, 46% of users say they’ll unfollow a brand on social media if it posts promotions too frequently.
Whenever you do post a promotion, do it casually. You don’t need to put words in all capitalized letters and include tons of stars and quotation marks around everything.
That’s annoying. Keep it short and to the point.
Instagram has a live broadcast feature. If you read my top marketing trends of 2018, you’d know I put live video streaming first on this list.
Users love it, and brands are using this information to their advantage.
Live video gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience in real time. While you broadcast, they can comment.
Make sure you respond to these comments, and try your best to acknowledge those users. This will help you increase engagement metrics.
There are endless possibilities with your live streams.
You could demonstrate new products, give a tour of your facility, or even introduce some of your employees. I like the idea of hosting a Q&A segment to give you a more authentic connection with your audience.
Another way to utilize Instagram live story is by working with other brands. Instagram is the top social platform in terms of brand collaborations across the globe:
You could try to get featured on the live broadcast of another profile in an effort to promote your brand.
As a result, this type of strategy can help you expose your brand to a new audience, increase your followers, and ultimately drive more sales.
Add pictures and videos to your story
As I briefly mentioned earlier, your story is a great place to add daily content.
You can post content to your story multiple times per day because it won’t flood the timelines of users who follow you.
But that doesn’t mean you should go overboard and post 20 different pictures and videos to your story every day.
People won’t look at each one, so it’s a waste of your time and resources. The engagement and views will drop with each additional post to your story.
You also need to make sure the timing of the post on your story is relevant because it will disappear 24 hours after it gets uploaded.
I’d recommend using your story to offer discounts, run contests, or tell people what you’re up to that day in the office.
The whole idea here is having your brand on their minds. If they’re thinking about your brand, they are more likely to make a purchase.
Similarly to your live video strategy, you can even use your Instagram story to partner with another brand for a takeover. You can take over their account, and they can post content to yours as well.
Again, this will make it easier for you to expose your brand to a wider audience.
Partner with social influencers
You don’t need to be the only one promoting your brand on Instagram.
You should work with social influencers to share your content and encourage sales as well. That’s because social influencers have high engagement rates and great relationships with their followers.
If you work with micro influencers, their followers will likely view those people as their peers. Based on this research, 90% of consumers say they trust recommendations made by their peers:
Plus, working with micro-influencers is much more cost-effective than paying someone with a celebrity status to promote your brand.
Not sure where you can find social influencers?
Check out these top platforms for managing social influencers to get started.
Add hashtags to your captions
Captions are just as important, if not more important, than the images and videos you post.
You’ve got to learn how to write Instagram captions that drive engagement.
Hashtags are definitely necessary. There are lots of different approaches to this.
For starters, you can use one that already exists so that other people can see it. For example, you could pick a hashtag that’s promoting a national event.
Another idea is to create your own hashtag. This would be much more brand-specific.
You could use a hashtag with just your brand name as well as the name of your campaign.
If you’re like to run contests on Instagram, you can have a unique hashtag for each one.
UGC is short for user-generated content. This piggybacks on my last point about using hashtags to promote contests.
Promotions of this nature encourage users to post photos and videos related to your brand to their personal profiles.
As a result, your brand gets exposed to all of the followers who are friends with that particular user. This type of content acts as a recommendation, which we just discussed as an effective promotional method.
Besides running contests, the best way to encourage user-generated content is to feature user photos on your profile.
Check out this post from the Thule Instagram page:
As you can see, this post came from one of their followers.
When other people see this, they’ll be encouraged to share it as well as submit their own photos for the chance to be featured on the page.
Try some sponsored posts
The great thing about promoting your brand on Instagram is that it’s completely free.
It’s not going to cost you anything to create a profile and post content. Lots of the strategies we’ve discussed so far in this guide won’t cost you anything either.
But if that’s just not cutting it for you and you want to be more direct with your strategy, you may want to consider paying for ads.
This is a good idea for newer brands struggling to get new followers.
You’ve got lots of options here:
If you want to find more information about setting these up, check out this resource from the Instagram Business website.
The great thing about these ads is you can include links that drive sales. Here’s an example of a photo ad with a “shop now” CTA:
It’s also easy to set up these ads while making sure you reach your target audience and stay within your marketing budget.
Your brand needs to have an active Instagram presence.
Always try to increase your followers. Make sure your profile is set up in a way that gives a great first impression.
Post content on a daily basis, but don’t post too much promotional content. Use live video streaming and your Instagram story to your advantage as well.
Partner with social influencers to expose your brand to a new audience.
Use captions with hashtags as a promotional tool. Encourage user-generated content.
If you want to take your Instagram marketing strategy to the next level and you’ve got some extra funds, you may want to consider paying for sponsored posts.
All of these strategies will help you elevate your Instagram presence and increase sales as a result.
What type of content is your brand posting on Instagram to generate sales from your followers?