Instagram attracts more than one billion people per month, and marketers have been eager to tap into its massive audience. The numbers don’t disappoint: 62 percent of Instagram users report becoming more interested in a brand when they see it featured in an Instagram story, and 130 million accounts engage with shopping posts on the site every month. Whether your goal is generating new leads, nurturing existing prospects as they move down the sales funnel, or making the final push to close a deal, these statistics show that Instagram is a powerful social marketing channel for reaching a broad group of users.
You should focus your Instagram marketing efforts on crafting content that is engaging, aligns with your marketing agenda, and makes it easy for prospects to recognize the value of your offerings. Here are 19 best practices for marketing on Instagram that will help you stand out from the pack.
1. Start with Creating a Business Account
Instagram offers three types of account profiles: personal, creator, and business. Marketers should always use a business account, for several reasons.
Business accounts allow you to set a category for your company, which will help Instagram users find you when they are looking for a certain type of product or service. Business accounts can also be verified to prove your brand identity, and they allow you to display contact information so prospects can easily reach you if they want to learn more about your product offerings. You can run ads through a business account, and you receive access to tools for developing branded content.
A business account lets you track and analyze key data as well. You can see which types of customers are engaging with you, which content generates the greatest engagement, and more. These insights are critical for measuring the performance of Instagram campaigns and understanding which customers you are best positioned to engage with when using the platform.
2. Clarify Your Objectives
Before diving into Instagram marketing, you need to define your objectives. Identify the types of users you want to reach, what your goals are for when you engage them, and how you will track your success as you achieve those goals. For example, are you looking for top-of-funnel lead generation, prospect nurturing, or something else entirely?
Having a clear set of goals in place is particularly important given that Instagram is most likely not a perfect representation of your business's overall target market. It skews heavily toward a younger crowd. Users between the ages of 18 and 24 are about three times as likely to use the platform as those older than 50. Higher-income consumers are also more likely to be Instagram users.
You need to make sure your Instagram marketing plan will reinforce your overall marketing goals. No single marketing asset will speak to all users of the platform. Millennials appreciate certain characteristics more than other demographic groups, like visual consistency and the integration of marketing content into Instagram stories.
For this reason, identify which specific groups of users you'd like to engage, and focus on building content tailored to them. Ideally, the audience you target will be one that you can't reach as effectively through other marketing channels. It should also, of course, deliver well-qualified leads for the products or services you’re selling.
3. Create a Winning Profile
A well-built profile is vital for standing out from the crowd on Instagram. Essential items to include in an Instagram business profile include contact information and a link to your website or online store.
A profile picture is also a must-have. In most cases, your brand’s logo is the best image to use for your profile picture, although you may consider using a mascot instead, if you have one that consumers will readily identify with your business.
A great bio is also a powerful asset for a business profile. The bio should be short and sweet (remember that most users are going to skim it) and it should clearly convey what your business does and why it's valuable to the users you’re targeting on Instagram. It's okay to be a little quirky with language, as long as doing so doesn't come at the expense of communicating your business's value clearly. Your primary goal should be consistency with the brand style and tone you use in other marketing channels.
4. Build a Cohesive Brand and Look
Your profile isn't the only part of your Instagram presence that should be consistent with your brand's messaging and style. All of the content you share should align with your overall brand strategy. When selecting images to share, choose those that include the same colors, style, or fonts as your brand. When creating captions to contextualize or enhance images, keep your language style consistent with your other marketing efforts.
Being consistent in your Instagram marketing will help you achieve an integrated marketing strategy across all of your channels. This can help drive higher conversion rates and reinforce the brand image that you want to convey.
5. Add and Edit Photos and Videos
Images and videos are the bread and butter of Instagram. The platform's focus on visual content is what sets it apart from most other social media sites, so they should be at the core of your content strategy. As noted above, you can share text on the site as well, but you should use textual content primarily to complement or contextualize photos and videos, not as the basis of your content strategy.
Wherever possible, strive to make your photos and videos original, rather than simply resharing content from other accounts. If you don't have the resources to create all of your images and videos from scratch, you can at least edit those from other sources in order to add originality, which goes a long way toward distinguishing you from competitors. You can also take advantage of Instagram’s native photo editing tools and filters, along with third-party software, to make your images stand out.
6. Use Shoppable Posts
Shoppable posts are an Instagram feature that allows users to shop for products directly from within your Instagram posts. Given that more than 130 million users engage with shoppable posts every month, they are a great asset to include in your Instagram marketing.
Shoppable posts are easiest to use if you sell physical goods that can be featured in an image or video. But don't shy away from using shoppable posts to sell non-tangible goods or services. Create content that shows people the experiences they will get to have when they purchase your services, or that addresses a pain point that your service or product solves.
7. Try Instagram Live
Instagram Live, which allows you to share live streaming video on the platform, may feel intimidating — you don't get a redo if something goes wrong! Nonetheless, live video is a powerful way to personally reach consumers, 82 percent of whom say they prefer a live video over static content from a business.
Using Instagram Live isn’t necessarily difficult. Because users understand that live videos are not edited, generating a feeling of authenticity in a live video is more important than having perfect production quality. You can create engaging live videos by interviewing a happy customer, showing off a new product or service, or providing a fun glimpse of an ongoing event.
8. Explore IGTV
IGTV is a standalone app that users can install in order to view longer videos than those that are supported on Instagram itself. It's a great place for sharing lengthy content that users would be unlikely to view in full when they are scrolling through their feeds. An educational video that demonstrates how to use a product is a good candidate for IGTV, as is a long-form interview or product review.
In addition to the opportunity to post lengthier content, IGTV is valuable because the production of videos posted through this channel doesn't have to be as sophisticated as that of the short, high-touch content that you post on Instagram itself. When viewers are consuming a tutorial or interview, they aren't expecting quite as much polish.
9. Consider Influencer Partnerships
Partnering with influencers who have large Instagram followings is an obvious way to boost your brand's visibility. It also lends credibility to your brand in the eyes of consumers who trust the influencer.
Because influencer partnerships can be expensive, be sure to use this marketing tool strategically. It can be particularly effective when you are launching a new product and want to build a following for it quickly, or if you’re a startup brand and want a quick way to create more visibility relative to large competitors.
You should choose influencers who have cachet among your target audience. An endorsement from a well-known celebrity may be less effective than one from a figure who is relatively obscure but carries weight in whichever community of users you are focused on engaging via Instagram.
10. Attract More Followers
The more followers you have, the more eyeballs you can attract with each piece of content you share via Instagram. For that reason, building a large group of followers is one of the most effective ways to supercharge your Instagram marketing strategy.
Some practices for increasing your number of followers, such as using hashtags and crafting effective stories, are discussed in greater detail below. Others include posting content consistently so that users want to follow you on an ongoing basis, as well as using Instagram analytics data to determine which types of content result in the large increases in followers, then tailoring your strategy accordingly. Don’t buy followers, however — building an organic following that actually engages with your content is far more valuable than an army of bots or dead accounts that couldn’t care less about what you’re offering.
11. Create Instagram Stories
An Instagram Story is a post that disappears after twenty-four hours. They're a great way to post less polished content that feels authentic to users. Videos that offer a behind-the-scenes look at your office or celebrate a business anniversary (such as your tenth year in operation) are good examples of content to post as Stories. By giving users the sense that they are getting a behind-the-scenes look into your business, Stories generate deeper engagement, while also offering you an opportunity to show off the nuances of your brand.
12. Employ Hashtags
Using hashtags is another way to ensure that your content reaches more users, especially those who are not already following you. When you include a hashtag in your content, Instagram will add it to aggregated feeds of all content with that hashtag, which will in turn attract users who are interested in the hashtag, even if they have never engaged with your brand before.
But don't go overboard with hashtags. Including more than one hashtag per post tends to decrease engagement rates. You should also resist the temptation to write quirky and original hashtags, which may be so obscure that no one is likely to search for them. Instead, select hashtags that are popular but not so widely used that your content will lack visibility when tagged with them.
13. Craft Compelling Captions
Although Instagram focuses on visual content, captions allow you to offer users some context for the photos and videos you post. They could include more information about a product or reinforce a brand message.
The best captions are concise but meaningful. Although Instagram allows up to 2200 characters in a caption, users have to click on a caption to see more than the first few lines. So be sure that your message is clear and punchy from the very start, and only write an essay if you really have something to say. Include calls-to-action in your captions as well that ask your audience to engage further with your content.
14. Take Advantage of User-Generated Content
Re-sharing Instagram posts created by your followers or customers helps to build connections and demonstrate your brand's commitment to its community. It also happens to be a quick and easy way to add content to your feed. Only select user-generated content that is consistent with your brand's style and messaging, though. Ideally, someone scrolling through your feed won’t find much difference between user-generated posts that you share and your own original content.
15. See if Instagram Ads Make Sense
Running ads on Instagram can help boost your content's visibility, which is especially useful if you don't yet have a large community of followers, or if you are trying to target a new audience. Compared to running ads on many other social media sites, the process for placing Instagram ads is quite easy. You simply indicate that you want to "boost" a post, and Instagram can automatically choose the best audience for promotion. Or if you want to target a specific audience, you can select to focus the content on certain users based on factors such as their age, location, and interests.
16. Post at the Best Times for Your Business
You should post content on Instagram when your target audience is most likely to see it. As a rule of thumb, the best time to post is between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. But this may vary depending on a variety of factors, including not just which time zones your target audience lives in but also age range, employment status, and more. The best way to identify the ideal post times for your business is to study Instagram analytics in order to determine how engagement with content varies depending on when you share it. With a little experimentation, you can find the best times and days for your target users.
17. Analyze Your Data
Analyzing your Instagram marketing is crucial for building a data-driven marketing strategy. Instagram itself lets you track information such as whether videos or photos receive stronger engagement, how many posts drive traffic to your other marketing channels, which content is best for gaining new followers, and more. But a third-party platform can be even more helpful for really digging into your Instagram data. Without analytics, your Instagram marketing strategy will be ad-hoc at best. When you lean into analytics, you can understand your performance in a systematic way and continue to improve it over time.
18. Connect to Your Facebook Page
Be sure to connect your Instagram content to your Facebook page. Doing so increases the integration of your marketing channels and provides an opportunity for sharing content via Facebook that would be difficult to share or would not perform as well on Instagram, such as text that is not linked to a picture or video.
19. Convert Your Followers
While Instagram is a great platform for building general brand awareness and generating leads, you can also use it to convert followers who are already interested in what you offer. After all, your ultimate aim is to close sales, not just build interest. Methods for converting followers include offering discounts or promotions through your Instagram content. Product teasers can also help nurture leads toward a conversion, as can personalized messages that you leave for your followers. The latter strategy can be particularly effective if your business is oriented around low-volume, high-value sales, where a personal touch may be what it takes to convert a lead.
Get the Most out of Instagram with Marketing Automation
Instagram marketing is a complex process. It involves an array of different tools, from generic content to Stories and shoppable posts to IGTV videos. You need a deep understanding of the audiences you’re targeting and the best ways to reach them through Instagram content, while also integrating your Instagram presence effectively into your broader marketing strategy.
Attempting to balance all of these factors by hand is unrealistic, so marketing automation is a must-have for managing Instagram marketing and aligning it with other marketing channels. Marketo Engage provides the marketing automation tools you need to leverage Instagram as an effective marketing platform. Marketo makes it easy to engage with users across different social media platforms, track analytics data to understand the performance of social content, personalize social media marketing, and more.
To learn more about how Marketo Engage can help you get the most out of your investment in Instagram marketing, request an interactive tour.