So where do you start and what tools are available to help you?
You can read about a full Instagram ecommerce strategy designed to grow your following and increase sales in my previous post. Today, however, is more about the smaller, bite-sized actions you can be taking as part of this strategy. I say ‘small’ but many are actually quite profound changes to the way you use Instagram and, combined, they become very powerful.
You will find tips covering everything from optimizing your profile to developing your content strategy, growing your following, improving traffic and sales, Instagram marketing tips for photography, and social media marketing tips.
Before we get into the tips, a little more about why you need to pay more attention to Instagram marketing as we progress through 2017…
Why apply these Instagram tips in your business?
If you’re not yet taking Instagram seriously as a marketing channel for your business, you are literally saying to your competition: “you take the profits…I’m not interested”.
Did you know that…
- There are already 500 million active monthly users on Instagram?
- 31% of U.S women and 24% of men use Instagram?
- 60% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 34?
Your target audience may not be exclusively 18-34 year olds, but you can be sure that a large proportion are using Instagram.
The point here is that it is no longer just a social app for daily sharing millions of pictures of birthday parties and fluffy kittens. It is becoming a huge marketing vehicle for businesses, with over 70% of U.S. brands with 100 employees or more using the app.
Not only do 68% of Instagrammers engage regularly with brands (double that of Facebook) but
brands enjoy considerably more regular engagement with their followers than on Facebook and Twitter.
If that doesn’t convince you of the importance of Instagram marketing, then the fact that Instagram is assembling a dedicated ecommerce team to manage this growth into business marketing should.
Now you know why you need it, let’s get straight into what you need to be thinking about and taking action on. Some of the following Instagram marketing tips are for beginners; others are for more advanced users; but all are proven to work.
The most important thing is to take action and measure the results of your changes. You’ll probably have guessed by now that it’s not just about taking photos of your products and flooding your feed with them!
You’ll see that the first tip sits on its own as the starting point for everything, while the other 49 have been categorized, though there is plenty of cross-over between categories…
- Get clear on your main business objectives with Instagram
Be clear on your objectives before plowing time and effort into Instagram. What target audience are you after? How many followers are you hoping to attract? How will this translate into traffic (website visitors)? What conversion rate is acceptable? What sales are you hoping to generate?
It’s not enough to say that you want to showcase your products and services. You need a wider vision and strategy. Some businesses target an increase in brand awareness, others see Instagram as a vehicle for providing a peek behind the scenes and to present the culture of the company. There can be many objectives, but unless it eventually translates into sales and revenue, it is not good marketing. Start with the end in mind and be clear on your expectations and then you can outline the steps you need to take to get there.
Instagram tips to optimize your profile
- Optimize your bio like a value proposition
Your profile should speak to your target audience and demonstrate the value that you can provide them – but the 150 characters allowed provides little space to tell your story.
Use it to convey the warm, fuzzy feeling that visitors are in the right place and that you can help them find what they want. It’s a great chance to create a lasting first impression; aim to press the right buttons with your bio and don’t forget to include a strong, succinct call to action.
- Optimize your profile pic
Instagram is a visually powered platform. You really need to make sure that your brand looks the part. That’s why your profile picture is one of the most important elements of your profile. Use a high-quality image as this is the first thing that visitors will pay attention to.
If you are using your logo, make sure it is sized correctly. If you decide to include the ‘face’ of your brand, it should be a professional quality shot, not one taken in a rush in the staff canteen.
- Include a link in your bio
Another simple action you can take almost immediately to increase traffic is to include a link to your website in your bio. But not ANY link. You only get one link on Instagram so use it well. Use a shortened link to a conversion-optimized landing page that is targeted at getting people to take a specific action. This can be changed regularly, if necessary.
Don’t just send visitors to an informational homepage. Use the link as an opportunity to start moving them along the sales funnel.
- Make your account public
The idea on Instagram is to be as visible as possible. By making your account public, this aids your cause. Fortunately, this is the default setting so all your posts will be seen by everyone – not just your followers.
This is where a business account will generally differ from a private account, where you may only want approved followers to see your posts.
Tools & tips to improve your Instagram content strategy
- Select the right colors & fonts
First things first. As Instagram is a visual platform, your content needs to look good. You need to develop a unique posting style.
Work with a consistent color palette that suits your brand. This will make your posts more memorable to followers and create a pleasing continuity and familiarity.
Next, you will be annotating your posts with captions and hashtags. Choose fonts that are consistent and reflect other marketing materials (including your website) and this will help to make it more recognizable, consistent, and ‘branded’.
- Show Instagram content on your website with SnapWidget
How would you like to have a constant stream of new content on your website? How would this improve SEO and the customer experience?
SnapWidget makes it easy to automatically send your daily Instagram images or video to your website. It offers customizable FREE, LITE and PRO plans, so you can try it out first for nothing and upgrade if it works for you.
- Develop a content calendar with Schedugram
Your posting of content needs planning and automation to run effectively. This can be achieved with Schedugram – a content-scheduling calendar designed specifically for business Instagram users.
It allows you to automate the uploading of images or video, scheduling for later, and is able to support multiple accounts if you are an internet marketer looking after several brands. This makes your Instagram life easier, reducing headaches associated with the timing and the mechanics of posting content.
- Share top content with your audience using Tagboard
Being able to share the best image and video content from the web will help you grow your Instagram following. Post product, niche, or industry-related content that delights, amuses, entertains, or informs your audience.
Tagboard helps you do this by using hashtags to search out the best content immediately after it’s posted to the main social networks. Simply select the content you want to share and display it on your Instagram feed. You can also use it to share user-generated content with customers raving about your products.
- Showcase your products creatively
The purpose of spending time on Instagram marketing is largely to showcase products and services. But the same tedious product images will get you the same tedious responses and the same poor results.
Look to liven things up with your product shots to increase traffic, engagement, and conversions. Get imaginative and creative.
- Make it fun!
There’s too much serious stuff going on in the world. Your Instagram feed is a good place to help people forget that and to raise a few chuckle, giggles, or eyebrows.
You can be bold with content, but keep it in tune with the vibe and expectations of your audience; you don’t have to tell a stream of jokes, but keep it fun and light! Maybe a few shots of the CEO or boss when he’s not looking, with a suitable caption. More about these ‘behind the scenes’ shots later – they’re really useful.
- Inform and educate your followers
Instagram posts may contain minimal text but that doesn’t mean they can’t be educational. Informing your followers about industry trends, company news, or technical features of products in your niche keeps customers up-to-date and lets them know that you are investing time in them.
When they need something you offer further down the track, who do you think they will turn to?
- Create slideshow videos with Flipagram
Another excellent content-creation tool that livens up your feed and engages followers is Flipagram. It helps you create short videos that can showcase products being used or other content that adds variety and originality to your follower experience.
Create a video or a slideshow video and set it to music. It’s easy to set up on an iPhone, Android or Windows Phone and is one of the quickest ways to create ‘instant video’ for your Instagram feed.
- Focus on quality not quantity
Your Instagram account is an important extension of your brand. As such, it should represent the type of quality you stand for.
This means focusing on providing high-quality content that will delight your target audience, rather than bombarding them with an overload of irrelevant or substandard information, which will turn them away.
- Be inspirational or aspirational
Either inspire people with compelling content or generate hope by showing them what’s possible. These are the two best ways of engaging your audience, growing your following, and getting them interested in your business on Instagram.
Think variety, creativity, and personality: as well as a creative array of product shots, include user-submitted photos, sneak peeks behind the scenes or with new products, inspirational quotes to accompany your images, creative use of hashtags, short tutorials or demos, and so on.
- Show the face behind your brand
Images with human faces are known to considerably increase engagement levels. They always have – even before social media (see the National Geographoc image above).
Showing the human face behind your business is another important element of your content strategy. This can be in the form of ‘meet the team’ posts, for instance, which provide insight into the people responsible for the products you showcase.
Why not post a video of the bosses describing what they like to do when not working, or a picture of something fun at the office? Share a little of your personal story to engage and inspire people and engender more trust and credibility in your business.
- Use lifestyle shots in your marketing
Lifestyle photos place your products in context and demonstrate how they are used by people in real life; this make a refreshing change from using models or studio-based demos of products.
It has the effect of making your products more touchable, more feelable, more real – an important quality in the online shopping experience.
- Try ‘newsjacking’ to find content
It’s important to jump onto what’s new and popular on Instagram: hot news, pop culture, trends etc.
This can change quickly on social media, but you can find out the subjects that are trending on Facebook (on the right sidebar) and Twitter (below your profile picture); then use this information to create and share an Instagram post on this subject.
- Source hot content from reddit
Another way to feature great, sharable content in posts is by finding the most successful and read topics on reddit.
With almost one million communities amongst its members, reddit covers all interests and you can be certain that your niche is represented.
Simply type your industry or niche in the serach bar and click ‘limit to subreddit’. Then follow the links to the top content in that particular community. You can then choose a topic or two for a creative Instagram post.
Instagram marketing tips on photography
- Go behind the scenes and show the company culture
How is your product made? Who makes it? Where is it made? Who makes the tea in the office? How do you have fun at work? Who cleaned up after the Xmas party?
‘Behind the scenes’ footage doesn’t only work for popular TV shows and movies; in your company, it can present a great new angle to engage, amuse, and inform followers. Use it to showcase the culture, character, and vibe of the business, and to introduce team members to followers.
- Learn image composition basics
The arrangement of the visual elements in your image needs careful consideration. Unless you have a natural talent for taking great shots, it will serve you well to learn some of the fundamentals of image composition. This will help you create the type of eye-catching posts that ensure you are presenting your products in the best way on Instagram.
Some of the basic rules here include using a solid background color, including extra space at the top or bottom to add text and using the ‘rule of thirds’ for the main focus of your picture. More image composition tips can be found in many online tutorials.
- Choose filters carefully
Instagram partly made its name with its cool filters; and smart use of these filters still creates posts that rock. However, not all filters create popular posts…
A research team at Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs found from a study of 7.6 million photos on Instagram and Flickr that the right filters increase likes by 21% and comments by 45%.
Warm tones (red and yellow, for example) with higher contrasts and exposure performed better than cooler colors with high saturation; artificial aging didn’t perform too well either. Bear this in mind when adding filters to your next posts.
- Manipulate your shots with Typic
Photo editing tools are plentiful these days, but one of the best and most popular apps for manipulating your Instagram photos is Typic. Using this tool you can add more filters and effects to pictures, easily add text to tell your story, and add design elements that help them to get seen.
There are over 80 million photos uploaded everyday to Instagram, so you need all the help you can get to make your posts stand out.
- Don’t post duplicate product shots
Avoid posting duplicate product shots on Instagram. The need for variety and audience engagement means that posting the same product shots will get tedious and is likely to see you un-followed en masse.
As described above, develop a content strategy that includes a balance of product showcasing with user-generated content, lifestyle shots, behind the scenes imagery, and industry information/news, etc.
Instagram marketing tips on community interaction
- Optimize time and frequency of posts
I’ve already mentioned the Schedugram calendar; but how do you know when is the best time of the day or day of the week to post? And what frequency is best?
Union Metrics found that most brands post at an average of 1.5 posts per day. So following this rule will generally stand you in good stead. CoSchedule found the following general rules for posting times:
- Mondays and Thursdays drive the most engagement
- 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. Eastern drives the most engagement
However, to maximise the reach of your posts and provide content that is consistently released at the right time, experiment with your audience and measure engagement.
- Respond to user comments promptly
Whether positive or negative, it’s important to respond quickly to customer comments. Failure to do so could damage follower relationships.
Their feedback is valuable for several reasons: the opportunity to provide quick answers helps you appear more active and responsive; negative comments may present opportunities to improve your offering, highlighting problems or defects with your products that need fixing; and positive comments engender good sentiment towards your brand and help to grow credibility and trust with your following.
- Like and comment on competitors’ followers’ posts
On Instagram, your competitors should be viewed as a potential source of followers. They are definitely not to be avoided. Instead, take steps to engage with these followers by identifying posts by them and first liking them.
This is accepted practice for seasoned Instagram marketers and is a great starting point for engaging with these followers and eventually bringing them over to you. Commenting on posts is the next step, allowing you to take the relationship to the stage of introducing your brand.
- Curate user-generated content with Yotpo
Nobody can convey the excitement, passion, and pleasure that your products generate quite like your fans. With online marketing, where social proof counts for so much, and authenticity is such a valuable currency, your followers and customers are key to promoting your brand.
Your customers probably take a lot of pictures anyway. The skill is in getting them to share them with you, making them the star by posting on your feed along with an appropriate caption/hashtag etc.
The best user-generated content highlights creative ways of interacting with your products and services, helping you develop a vibrant community with good sentiment towards your brand. Yotpo is an excellent mobile-first tool that makes it easy to increase the amount of reviews and other user-generated content.
- Showcase customer stories
Providing a platform for your community to share their stories and have a moment in the spotlight is another excellent way of generating good customer sentiment.
A great way of managing this is to set up a suitable hashtag such as #(YourBrandName)Stories and request that customers post their stories about something that they are passionate about. Soon you will have a community full of positive stories. It doesn’t even have to be about you or your product – you are still associated with that positivity.
- @mention your customers
You probably have the impression by now that you need to make your customers the stars! Yes! And another way you can do that is to @mention them in posts, whenever appropriate, especially when they are using your products. Always mention a person when you are posting their user-generated content.
Your appreciation of followers and customers may prompt others to see what you’re offering – after all, no-one likes to feel left out.
- Repost followers’ photos
Another important way to interact with followers is to repost their photos. Again, it’s all about showing appreciation for their efforts, making them the star, and keeping the communication channels with all your followers open and active.
Those of you familiar with sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn will find it just as easy on Instagram.
- Ask questions in posts to increase engagement
Questions are powerful on social media. People like to give answers and to feel that their opinion counts, so what better way to engage them than to ask a question or two?
You could ask for opinions about your business or products – for instance, asking followers if they prefer A or B, this color or that one, or whether these boots go with these jeans?
You can also ask questions about how they use the products they bought, or how they fit into their overall lifestyle.
- Post ‘fill in the blanks’ images
Another effective way to engage users is to ask them to ‘fill in the blanks’. Post an image with a related sentence with something missing, which followers are then invited to fill in with their own thoughts or opinions.
This can be humorous, informative, or even troubling (if negative sentiments are expressed) but it is an engaging way to interact with your audience and can provide valuable, easy-to-collect feedback about your business and/or your products.
Instagram marketing campaign ideas
- Run competitions with Wyng
Competitions are a great way to get your followers involved and excited; some people follow brands purely for the associated perks, freebies, and chances to win something. Popular types of competitions on Instagram include ‘Like to Win’ competitions, Hashtag user-generated content contests, and photo caption competitions.
You can get more creative by using third-party apps. Wyng helps you to increase participation in your brand by running unique campaigns and competitions that drive engagement and promote user-generated content. You can even include a voting element so that contestants spread the word to their friends in order to garner more votes.
- Run photographic contests to engage followers & increase brand reach
Photo contests are another idea for interacting with and engaging followers. You might want to ask customers to send in images showing the most creative ways they have worn your clothing or the most amazing places they have worn your shoes.
You can get more creative and wacky – remember that you want to provoke a reaction and get noticed. People love competitions and the creative ways they show of using your products can even generate ideas to create new products.
- Try a guest takeover
Guest takeovers can be a powerful tool for promoting your brand or a particular product or event, or simply to provide a valuable new perspective to engage your followers.
While it’s a strategy that’s sometimes used by the bigger brands – such as when Estee Lauder invited beauty blogger Emily Schuman to takeover its Instagram to promote a new product – it can also be used by smaller ecommerce businesses.
The bigger the ‘influencer’ the more impact it will have on audience growth, but you don’t need big celebrities to make it work. You could even invite a really passionate follower who has been a loyal brand ‘ambassador’.
- Shout for shoutout
Instagram shoutouts are a reach-out to other brands with a similar audience to yours. They should be a part of your strategy to increase your following and traffic to your store.
Ideally, you request a shoutout with a brand that has a slightly larger following of the SAME target audience as you, but with a different or complementary product. If you are a clothing retailer this may be a jewelry store, for instance.
By exchanging shoutouts, you benefit from exposure for your brand in front of your target audience while reciprocating the favor for the other brand: a great win-win that allows you both to cross-promote your following.
- Launch a product ‘live’ on Instagram
Launching a new product soon? Opening a new store? Instagram is a great place to build anticipation and momentum and then to actually launch it ‘live’.
To build excitement, you can release short videos beforehand or a series of shots showing you and your team getting ready for the big day…without giving away everything about the new product.
On the day of the launch, post shots of your excited customers and reveal exactly what you are launching and why.
Tools & tips to increase sales more directly from Instagram
- Make your feed Shoppable with Foursixty and Curalate
Recent changes in policy have made Instagram feeds more shoppable, but there are still limits to what you can do without using third-party apps.
Foursixty helps turn both your own and customer-generated content into shoppable galleries for your online store. This makes it easier for followers to directly access your products, which is better for sending traffic and should increase sales.
Curalate is a multi-channel marketing platform that helps you create a unified shopping experience across social communities like Instagram, mobile applications, and your website. Its Like2Buy app creates shoppable content.
- Retarget customers with ads to increase ROI
Customers who click through to your store but don’t buy anything should NOT be considered ‘lost’. The savviest store owners actively re-contact and retarget these customers using advertisements that remind them of what they were shopping for. For Shopify stores check out a tool called Recart to help with just this!
This can dramatically improve ROI. According to statistics by CMO, retargeting attracts a click-through rate 10 times higher than standard display ads and retargeted customers are 70% more likely to buy than those who are not.
Tools & tips to improve Instagram management, analysis & measurement
- Leverage analytics and KPIs with Iconosquare
One of the keys to success on Instagram, like with any marketing strategy, is to be able to analyze and measure performance. What’s working well and what needs to change? Without knowing this you are shooting in the dark.
Iconosquare provides deep insight into your performance on Instagram, helping you to measure, understand, and improve activity for better results and, ultimately, more sales. With Iconosqaure all the tools you need to do this are in one place, which can save valuable time.
- Manage customer development with AgoraPulse
As you develop your sales funnel, it becomes important to manage the customer relationship from initial interaction through to conversion. AgoraPulse is tool that can help you do that more effectively.
It allows you to manage all your social media messages centrally and improve categorization and segmentation, while also helping you schedule and publish content, and run contests and quizzes. You can also receive detailed performance analytics reports and see how you are doing compared to competitors.
Other social media marketing tips for Instagram
- Copy trending or popular hashtags
Hashtags are widely used on Instagram, just like on Twitter. Along with your image, it’s the most important part of your post as it’s how many users will find you through search. Importantly, they are viewable outside your sphere of followers.
They are also a great indication for you of what’s popular and trending. This can change rapidly and it’s worth keeping across the trends that affect your industry, your niche, and your brand.
Including trending hashtags rapidly expands the potential reach of a post; literally thousands of sets of new and interested eyes could land on your content within minutes, if you catch the right trend.
- Perform keyword research on hashtags
How do you know which are the best hashtags to use for your posts? It works a little like keyword research for SEO; you need to do your research and then target the best 5-10 hashtags.
Target the hashtags that are most active in your market. Using the most popular ones can help you to rapidly expand the potential reach of your content and to build a powerful community. Don’t forget to comment on competitor posts also using those hashtags, so that you get in front of more potential followers who may be enticed over to your brand.
- Embrace pop culture
Can you use a Game of Thrones reference in one of your posts? Or maybe a line from a Kanye West song?
A great way of connecting with the younger audience is to speak to them in the language that captures their imagination. Pop culture references with the right hashtags can get your posts seen by many more potential followers.
- Get featured on Instagram’s explore tab
Being featured in Instgram’s ‘Explore’ tab should be the ‘holy grail’ for Instagram content, though it is largely out of your control whether your content is chosen.
You can only ensure that you are posting high quality, relevant, engaging posts to your audience, which obey all the Instagram rules. If your content is featured, you can get in front of tens of thousands more target customers.
Following the best-practice Instagram marketing tips outlined above will increase your chances of featuring.
- Use emoticons in posts
You may not believe it but it is possible to greatly increase engagement by using emoticons in your Instagram posts. These colorful little beings have come a long way from the simple smiley.
With Instagram being one of the most visual of all the social media networks, it should follow that people respond to visual stimuli like emoticons. On Twitter, for example, an emoji tweet was found to have a 25.4% higher engagement than a plain tweet. This is probably why emoticon use has almost tripled since 2014.
Clever use of emoticons can create more emotional posts that get people thinking, engaging, and interacting more with you.
- Leverage Instagram influencers and celebrities
Industry-related leaders and celebrities can be a great source of instant credibility. It may take some work to get them to interact with you but remember – even a loose association with influencers and celebrities tends to give a brand a big boost.
For those doubting the amount of effort and resources needed to go into attracting influencers, one estimate says that, on average, for every $1 invested, the increase in revenue is $6.50.
A good place to start is to simply @mention them. If you are able to get a celebrity or influencer interested in your product (they do get thousands of approaches), imagine what exposure to all their followers could do for your business.
- Connect your Instagram account with other social accounts
It’s important to connect your Instagram account to your other social accounts so that you represent a united, branded front, and create synergies between the accounts.
Key amongst these is your Facebook account (don’t forget that Facebook owns Instagram). You will especially need to do this if you want to create ads for Instagram. Regardless, it’s a good idea to create an Instagram tab on your brand’s Facebook page to instantly share photos to your Facebook fans and increase engagement.
- Use Facebook Insights to locate strategic partners
Another good example of cross-pollination of social media accounts can be achieved by using the ‘Facebook Insights’ reporting tool to find strategic partners for your Instagram account.
The Audience insights from Facebook will help you identify and create a custom audience (or choose ‘everyone on Facebook’) and upload to your customer email list. Then you can find out what they’re interested in by clicking on the ‘Page Likes’ tab and start to identify potential partners for promotions, contests, or content.
Your new following will be impressed that you partner with the very brands that they are interested in…which can only be good for your business.
- Add a spark to your boring social pages
If you’re looking to use user review to improve your social accounts, check out this post that will show you how to create beautiful review posts that aren’t boring text!
50 Instagram Marketing Tips Checklist
Learn the top 50 tips to follow to grow your ecommerce brand on Instagram.