It's no surprise that Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most impactful social media channels out there. In just over 5 years, Instagram has built a community of 400M+ active monthly users, posting 80M+ photos every day and generating 3.5B daily likes. Needless to say, the numbers are quite impressive! Instagram has done a great job in creating a clean, well-designed application that doesn't overwhelm the user. The simplicity of the platform, coupled with its visual appeal, has allowed Instagram to quickly build a large community of highly-engaged users. As marketers, this highly-engaged community is one of Instagram's most attractive attributes, but the challenge is understanding how to market to them. Instagram has stuck to its core feature of allowing users to edit, caption, upload and view captivating imagery. The limited capabilities have challenged marketers to get creative and maximize their efforts with the opportunities they're given. Even with the recent opening of their API to all advertisers, Instagram has kept it a priority to maintain the integrity of the user-experience. If you're simply wondering whether Instagram is the right channel for your business, the answer is simply YES! Every brand has a story to tell. However, if you're wondering what you need to do before getting started, here's a list of steps to help guide you along the journey.
1. Define Your Goal
Before you decide to create an Instagram Business account, it's important to make sure you have clearly defined goals. What are you looking to achieve from your Instagram account? Are you looking for a place to interact with your customers? Are you trying to increase overall brand awareness? Increase foot traffic? Drive online sales? Your messaging should have a clear call-to-action to help guide your followers to make or take your desired action. Having clearly defined goals will allow you to optimize your content and messaging to help achieve your brand's specific goals.
2. Know Your Audience
If you don't know who you're marketing to, you can't possibly know what to market. Having a deep understanding of your audience will significantly impact the way you communicate with them. Develop your customer persona to help you understand what your customers' values are. What are their interests? What are their daily activities? What do they care about outside of what your specific business offers? The more you know about your audience, the better you can tailor your content. As a result, you're able to provide a stronger value to them. Today's consumer is very savvy, and the days of "selling" to your customer are gone. Rather than buying what you're selling, customers are buying why you're selling it. Give your audience a look into your brand, and humanize your brand to create an emotional connection. An important thing to keep in mind here is the 70/30 guideline. Generally speaking, 70% of your posts should be focused on something that your audience finds valuable, and the remaining 30% of your content should be focused on you and the products or services you're selling.
3. Develop Your Style Guide
So, you have defined your goals and have a solid understanding of your audience. Now, how do you effectively broadcast your message to that audience? Developing your style guide is crucial in building brand awareness and establishing credibility amongst your audience. What kind of voice and tone best represents your brand and appeals to your audience? What feelings do you want to evoke surrounding your brand? What color palette and visual style best evokes those feelings?
Maintaining a consistent voice and look in your marketing is what helps make your brand recognizable. The goal is for someone to see your content and know right away that it belongs to your brand.
4. Create a Content Calendar
Before you get started with a new Instagram account for your business, it's best to build out an editorial calendar with a plan for your posts. The last thing you want when building up a new account is to be at a loss for content, so be prepared and plan ahead. Make a list of the type of content you want to share on your account to help you build out your calendar. In addition to product-related content, you may want to consider sharing customer testimonials, a look behind-the-scenes, pop culture references, etc. Can you show your followers a new way to use your product? Oreo used their social channels to present different ways that Oreos can be used by creating short videos with the hashtag #oreosnackhacks. Can you give your followers an inside look into how your product is made? Gotham Greens, an urban rooftop greenhouse based in New York City, does a great job of showing their produce in the making.
Remember that social media is real-time and your content calendar is a guideline to keep you on track. Be prepared to adapt to real-time events and be flexible in the event that external factors may impact your content. As you move forward with your content development, refer back to your initial list to ensure that you're sticking to the strategy and working towards your goals.
5. Commit Yourself
Being successful on Instagram requires commitment. It requires ongoing dedication to developing content and posting on a regular and frequent basis. If you want a presence on Instagram, then be present! Delegate someone to run your account that has a deep understanding of the brand voice and can dedicate time to building and maintaining your community. Once you've established a following, your fans will have expectations of you to be consistent. They are following you because you have provided something of value to them, and the best way to keep them loyal is to keep fulfilling their expectations.
Instagram is an incredibly valuable platform that gives businesses the opportunity to connect with a massive audience on a very personal level. Companies are able to show an inside look into how they operate, giving them an opportunity to humanize their brand. These efforts help develop stronger loyalty and ultimately create brand advocates. Essentially, Instagram is a platform that, with the right amount of dedication, every business can benefit from. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in a world where we can be limited to 140 characters or less, a thousand words can go a long way!