A quick look at the numbers will be enough to convince any business that Instagram should be a key component of their social media marketing strategy. With over 500 million active daily users and 32% of all internet users on the platform, Instagram is an enormous potential customer base.
Such figures also mean that it’s harder than ever for your brand to stand out amongst the competition. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to ensure that your own account isn’t lost in the crowd and this guide will help you understand the fundamental principles of creating your very own branded Instagram account.
Know Your Audience
At the heart of any good business is a thorough understanding of the target audience. When it comes to promoting your brand on Instagram, this is the essential consideration.
Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll be far more successful if you have a specific audience in mind. You might already know the demographics of your customers, but the more you know about the gender, age, location etc. of your ideal follower, the easier it will be to create a relevant Instagram identity.
Take this further – when are they online, what other accounts do they follow, which posts do they like and comment on? Focusing on these relevant users means you’ll be much more likely to convert them into customers.
This should be an ongoing process. That way, as your target audience changes, you’ll be able to adapt your Instagram presence accordingly.
Want to get inside your target audience’s heads? Use a tool like answerthepublic.com in order to find out their most burning and urgent questions about your service, product, or niche. Then, simply create some branded graphics with the answers. It’s a quick way to win people over — and you can use the same principle across your marketing strategy.
Authenticity Is Key
You need to develop a visual style that reflects your brand’s ethos and identity. It’s not necessarily about the hard sell, but shining a light on who you are, what you represent and taking followers along with you as your brand flourishes.
Whilst highly stylized images might satisfy your inner Ansel Adams, consider that it might actually be better to showcase your brand in an authentic way. How is your product/service used in real life and how can that be harnessed as an image?
Consistency is another big factor here. Rather than adopting a scattergun approach, it’s far more effective to define a style. It’s what makes brands such as Vans, Nike and Starbucks so successful on Instagram – authentic content with an instantly identifiable style.
A great way to add the personal touch to your posts is by including occasional behind-the-scenes shots of your staff in action, what’s more authentic than that?
#Harness the Hashtag
More so than on any other platform, the correct use of hashtags is an imperative part of successfully establishing your brand on Instagram. Content is key, but hashtags are the breadcrumbs that lead followers in your direction. You don’t want to scatter too many, but the right amount can play a huge part in aiding your brand.
Come up with a hashtag for your brand that you use on every single post.
It could be your company name or something more creative. Just ensure that you stick with it and that your followers know what it is, so they can look for it and use it in their own posts. You may even come up with hashtags for specific events or days, like Dry Soda do with #fridayDRYday.
Instagram users can now follow specific hashtags as well as accounts, making it even more important for you to establish your own tags. It also gives you a chance to follow hashtags that are relevant to your industry, enabling you to keep up with current trends.
It’s important to use hashtags in the right way and not go OVERBOARD with them either. It’s useful to add about 10-11 for context, but any more can seem like overkill. It’s a good idea to keep the caption field to a few hashtags only, and leave the comments section for the bigger # impact.
There are tools such as top-hashtags.com and hashtagify.me that can help you determine the popularity of certain tags.
Turn Followers into Content Makers
The beauty of user-generated content (UGC) is that it only adds to the strength your brand.
The simplest method is to embed/re-gram suitable images that other people have posted. Your hashtag is out there and therefore it’s easy to track down some great, free images, which you can use to bolster your own content (Instagram etiquette requires that you ask permission from the original owner, or at the very least tag them in the posts).
You should also request that your followers submit photos of themselves using your product/service in everyday life. Once again, we’re returning to the subject of authenticity.
Sharpie is a great example here. They frequently post the artistic doodles of their followers. It’s visually striking, brand appropriate, and ideal content that they don’t have to create for themselves.
A good way of obtaining UGC is by running a photo contest with a specific hashtag, offering a prize for the winning entry.
Know Your Influencers
One of the best ways to enhance your brand on Instagram is by drafting in some outside help. The recruitment of brand ambassadors, henceforth known as ‘influencers’, can add a huge boost to your own account.
Brand engagement through an influencer is twice as high as through the brand itself, which explains why so many companies use them as part of their strategy.
If you’re gunning for someone with a huge following, it may come at a premium, but there may be a compromise where you can offer a discount/goods in exchange for their help. It might just be that you share a common vision and are happy to work together.
For startups and bootstrappers, working with a microinfluencer probably makes more sense. These people will have a slightly smaller following (typically 10-50 K), but they will be just as ready to partner with brands. Also, just because an audience is smaller, doesn’t mean they are any less engaged (quite the opposite in fact).
By working with an influencer, giving them the right balance of creative freedom and knowledge of your brand, they will be able create content that’s engaging, authentic (that word again) and drives business your way
Now here’s where the circle completes itself. These influencers can even take over your official site – curating the content for a day or a week.
Stats the Way to Do It
Just as knowing your audience is a vital stage in creating a branded Instagram account, keeping an eye on how you’re performing should be a fundamental part of your strategy.
Third party analytical tools such as Hootsuite don’t just help with scheduling, but also provide key statistical data about your content. By seeing which of your posts have performed best (in terms of both reach and engagement) you will be able to maximise your future returns.
It’s not just the content that has an effect. The time of day/day of the week that posts are made can also make a huge difference. Having this data to hand will mean that you can establish the most effective posts and schedules.
Instagram’s own blog is another invaluable source of information that’s definitely worth paying attention to.
Engage With Ephemeral Content
Instagram have been pushing their Stories feature — and for good reason. Short-form video content is one of the most engaging forms of online content out there. And with the ability to overlay text, emojis, and animations over moving and static images — there are endless possibilities for brands who want to up their Insta game.
As a brand, Stories gives you the perfect storytelling platform to share emotive and meaningful messages, and you can easily collate a few different moments together in order to create a roadmap or journey. Why not share a story about #lifeintheday?
Instagram has recently made carousel ads in Stories possible — making the format even more valuable for brands seeking to mix up organic engagement with paid ads.
Do Sweat the Small Stuff
As well as the essentials above, don’t forget how important the little things can be in helping establish your branded account. Here are just a few:
- Make sure to use an Instagram business account, complete with its own analytical tools.
- Use the live link in your bio to drive visitors to your homepage.
- @mention your customers/ followers.
- Interact with them and like their posts.
- Utilise functions such as Instagram stories, videos and carousels to keep content varied.
- Use geotagging to attract local users.
- Mention your Instagram account on all your promotional material.
- Embed your Instagram content into your website*.
- Check your grammar and spelling, including hashtags.
*If you’re a Shopify user, apps like InstaShow or Instagram widgets make it easy to display images from Instagram on your eCommerce website. Likewise, the Instagram Feed plugin can be used for WordPress.
Treat your Instagram strategy with the same critical eye and attention to detail that you would any other aspect of your business.
By combing authentic content that is appropriate for your target audience with knowledge of hashtags and statistics, you’ll be able to create a branded account with the best chance of succeeding in the vast world of Instagram.
This is your opportunity to interact with your followers, show them why yours is a brand worth investing in and cement your relationship with them. We can’t wait to see what you post next!