Instagram has become the second biggest social media platform in the Western world, with half a billion users and over half of them using the platform every single day.
Is Instagram right for my business? What should my strategy look like? What’s the best way to get started?
All these questions and more will be answered in my Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started on Instagram.
Who is Instagram for?
Instagram is for any business that uses images or videos as part of their online marketing strategy, or any businesses that sell tangible products. Instagram is a place where users come to share and view amazing photos and videos – you cannot serve blog content, reports, or text only updates.
The bulk of Instagram’s user base are 18-29 year olds and best suited for businesses with a younger market (18-40):
It’s a highly profitable traffic source if you’re in the B2C sector, as you can show off products using images, generate awareness, and build a powerful community, as engagement levels on Instagram are very high (discussed later).
Why should you choose Instagram?
Aside from the newly created Instagram Business manager that reveals dozens of metrics on how your account is performing, Instagram receives more organic engagement than both Twitter and Facebook combined:
Let’s not forget that Instagram is owned by Facebook, allowing you cross-advertise your Facebook ads on Instagram:
I could bombard you with dozens more stats revealing why Instagram is a great platform for your business, but I don’t want to bore you to death with numbers and graphs!
Instead, I’m going to kick it up a notch and show you how to create your very own Instagram strategy from scratch.
1. Choose your objective
The first thing you need to do is ask yourself what you want to achieve on Instagram.
Limit yourself to 1-2 objectives as they will be easier to manage and measure.
Objectives can include:
- Generate brand awareness
- Generate product awareness
- Increase sales and lead generation
- Build a community
- Customer service outlet
- Improve brand loyalty
Personally, I think Instagram is best for building awareness for your business and products.
It’s a place where users and brands come to share amazing visuals and tell their brand story, and with its high engagement rate Instagram is a superb platform for reaching awareness objectives over sales and lead gen.
While Instagram now allows businesses to link shop items on their posts, the platform is still highly focused on garnering awareness rather than on aggressively selling a product.
Instagram is a place to inspire fans and create a brand.
2. Setting up your profile
Unlike Facebook and Twitter where you can attach as many links to your website as you wish, on Instagram you can only have one link which is shown in your profile. This URL can send them anywhere, but I suggest sending them to your homepage or a specific landing page.
Here is Adidas leading users to their homepage:
Ben and Jerry is sending users to a dedicated landing page that aligns their current campaign:
If you’re running a time-based campaign promoting a certain product, or raising brand awareness using a theme (Sports event, holidays etc), then changing your URL to send users a unique landing page like Ben and Jerry’s is fine.
When you’re not running a campaign lead fans to your homepage like Adidas.
The same applies with your profile picture, if you’re running a themed campaign then it’s fine to temporarily pimp out your profile picture to go along with it. Otherwise keep the same logo as you would have on all other social profiles to keep brand consistency.
3. The Content
Arguably the most important part of your Instagram strategy is content. If you plan on posting stock images or buying dozens of pictures from an image library, you need to think again.
Instagram is about being unique and telling your brand story. You cannot do that with stock images.
As well as coming up with your own images, you need to think about the following:
Remember that you’re telling a story on Instagram and the tones of color you use will aid or deflect your story. Here’s a great example of color use by Ferrari including their famous royal red in all images:
The same can be seen for Oreo’s Instagram page using their brand colors:
Colors are very important to enhance your story, so make sure the pallet you use ties with your brand.
Images attached with powerful quotes or text are commonplace on Instagram – be sure to keep your font consistency on Instagram the same as you would on all other marketing material.
Similar fonts and colors (black and yellow) can be seen throughout all of Sprint’s Instagram uploads:
Nothing looks out of place and every picture ties in together.
One of the reasons Instagram became so popular was because of their filter feature. A simple tint could turn amateur looking photos into professional pieces with the tap of a finger.
Filters can significantly change the feel of a photo to conjure up a range of emotions. Find the most appropriate filters to reach your goals to further propel the messages of your story and stick to them.
Don’t use too many.
Starbucks is one of the best brands out there using Instagram filters to perfection. For their iced coffee range they use bright and vibrant filters giving the sense of summer and heat:
For their hot coffee products they use warmer filters to portray their message of winter and cold:
Hashtags are typed by users to search for brands and content most relevant to them. Hashtags will also be how you find new fans.
Track Maven found that posts with 11 or more hashtags received the most engagement:
But with so many hashtags crammed in a single update, it also makes your post come across as spammy. I suggest using no more than 5 per post, but do some testing to find the best frequency.
4. When and how often should I post?
The amount of times you post on Instagram depends on how much content you have.
If you can realistically only produce 200 great looking images per year, you shouldn’t post more than once every two days, otherwise you’ll run out of content fast.
As for when to post, CoSchedule found that Monday and Thursday were the best times to upload to Instagram:
If you think you’ll struggle to continually come up with images to post on Instagram, asking fans on all your social profiles to send user generated content is a great way to build a community and obtain free, social proof, friendly content.
ASOS regularly ask their customers to upload snaps of their latest ASOS purchases which they then share on their Instagram profile:
A customer simply has to use their branded hashtag #AsSeenOnMe and ASOS can find a mass of free user generated content to use for marketing materials.
5. Measure, tweak, and improve
Before Instagram launched their Business Manager tool, the only way you could accurately track your Instagram engagement was using third party tools. Now you can find your best performing posts, demographic of fans, what time they login, and much more using the Instagram Business Manager.
After your first month of using Instagram, you’ll have data to inform you on which types of images, filters, and content is working and receiving quality engagement: what time of the day is best to post; and which audiences you should be focusing on.
Using this information you can make adjustments to your strategy,helping you to reach your goals and create audiences if you decide to advertise on Instagram.
Many small businesses start uploading images on Instagram with no real objective or brand story to tell. Images differ from one to the next, appear fragmented, and fail to achieve any type of engagement. Needless to say these businesses soon give up.
Instagram users like to be wooed, and want brands to win their affection by using breath taking images and by telling a fairy-tale story. Think of the story you want to tell and how you will do it through image and video.
Nike’s Instagram page tells the story of hard work , motivation and winning:
How will your story read?
This post was originally published in February 2017. It was last updated in June 2019.