As social media has become the new way to reach customers, sell products, and get visibility for brand messages, the importance of maintaining or even building a presence online is growing. Of course, the importance of various social media platforms is not always the same. For instance, Twitter really cannot be compared to Instagram, where the average user spends 53 minutes on the app every day.
If you know the importance of a great Instagram strategy, chances are you have already tried building your own presence. This is particularly true for people in the beauty, clothing, food, and home decor industries. For instance, Yakima Racks, a leading brand for car racks, boosted its female follower count on Instagram by 10% through its ambassador program The RackPack. Through influencer marketing, the brand partners with athletes, adventurers, and photographers of different backgrounds to inspire outdoorsy fans on social media and engage with its target audience. Yakima is also able to repurpose ambassador content for other campaigns, providing a more authentic strategy to connect with the right potential customers.
Fly fishing expert Kayla Lockhart shares her camper on Instagram, tagging Yakima in the post.
This works wonders because unlike typical branded ads, influencer marketing is far more subtle. It works by tying in products and services to a post that followers are already interested in. So, if a Yakima ambassador features the brand’s products in one of their videos or posts, followers are far more likely to engage with their content than a traditional advertisement. This is easier said than done, which is why keeping a couple of tips in mind is key.
#1 Identify Your Goal
The first step to growing your brand’s Instagram presence is to spend some time thinking about the specific type of growth you want to achieve.
Once you’ve managed to get an idea of what you want to achieve, you’re in a good place to select the right tools and start putting out content. Pixlee’s Instagram Marketing Checklist gives a complete rundown of Instagram marketing must-haves you can use to design your content strategy and monitor its success.
#2 User-generated Content Is Key
A sure-fire way to increase engagement with your users is to get them involved in your content creation process through user-generated content. User-generated content is any content (text, videos, reviews, images) created by a brand's followers rather than the brand itself.
Not only is UGC 35% more memorable than other media like traditional branded content, but it is also 50% more trusted. This means customers are more likely to engage with UGC shared by your brand on Instagram, leading to more conversions down the line. In an era where digital marketing only continues to grow, sharing how your community interacts with your products is a powerful word-of-mouth marketing tactic.There are plenty of ways of encouraging your users to submit user-generated content, including:
Run a social media contest with a unique hashtag, and offer participants the chance to win a discount or free sample if they share their photos.
Ask a question with an Instagram question sticker, and encourage your followers to share a post and tag you.
Partner with influencers to promote your brand and products.
Encourage your users to send in testimonials, which you can then post to your Instagram feed.
Host and record a podcast, get your followers to submit questions that you answer on air and repost the top clips to your Instagram feed.
Athletic apparel brand Hylete encourages customers to share their fitness journey on Instagram, and reposts photos and testimonials on the brand account. This promotes Hylete’s gear to a wider audience while boosting followers’ trust in its products.
#3 Host Contests and Offer Discounts
Similar to encouraging users to post user-generated content by hosting social media contests is a great way to increase your Instagram reach and engagement. The first step to running a successful contest or discount campaign is to plan your objectives, goals, and decide what you want a contest to achieve.
To help you narrow your focus, try, and think about the type of audience you're trying to reach, ask yourself:
What kind of posts does your target audience enjoy?
What kind of content does your target audience usually engage with?
Can you find examples of other successful Instagram contests from competitors in your niche?
Once you've narrowed down who you want to target, it's time to decide how your users can enter your contest. Have your audience post a photo or video with your product on Instagram using a unique hashtag, or tagging your brand’s account. You can then reshare this content on your Instagram page, and create a gallery of submissions on your website. Install a direct uploader like Pixlee’s to the gallery, and fans can also add submissions right on your website.
This will not only get your audience energized and excited to interact with your brand on Instagram, but it will provide you with a wealth of UGC to repurpose for different campaigns and posts or stories later on. Once you've decided on your contest, you can set boundaries and guidelines for users to follow.
For example, you could encourage your users to post a photo or video tagging your brand and reward the best post with a $100 gift card or specialized discount; you could also have 2nd or 3rd place prizes available to encourage more users to post. Sometimes even a shoutout from the brand account will be enough to incentivize users to share submissions.
Proper Whiskey’s #OneForAll contest encouraged customers to share their photos related to the brand’s products on Instagram for the chance to win a set of whiskey glasses.You can even use this discount or contest method to grow your email list. One of the prerequisites to enter the contest could be to opt-in to your list or fill out your opt-in form. The return on a contest like this is normally well worth what you invest.
#4 Engage with Your Following
There are plenty of different ways you can increase engagement by getting involved with your Instagram followers. While Instagram doesn’t give too much away about what a ‘good’ engagement rate is, most social media marketing experts agree that around a 2-3% audience engagement rate is a good target to aim for with each post.
Some tips for increasing your engagement rate include:
Be authentic - this could include sharing behind the scenes footage in an Instagram story, writing captivating, humorous captions on your Instagram posts, or introducing members of your team to your audience. This could also mean amplifying stories and posts from your brand’s customers to show how they engage with your products in real life.
Post video content - you can post Instagram videos to your feed, to your Instagram stories, host live videos, and post videos to IGTV. Try to have a purpose in mind for each piece of video content you produce. For example, do you want your video content to be humorous? Do you want your video content to be inspiring? Do you want to tell a story? Whatever video content you choose to produce, having a specific purpose in mind will help you create the most valuable video content possible for your audience.
Respond to questions and comments - While many brands acknowledge comments on their posts, there aren’t too many who get actively involved in the discussion amongst their audience. Solidify your Instagram community by seeking out your biggest fans and engaging with their posts in addition to comments on your brand’s.
If a member of your audience asks a specific question, be sure to respond to it and engage your audience in further discussion.
#5 Convert to an Instagram Business Account for Insights
In case you didn’t know, switching to an Instagram business profile is a fantastic way to get insights into how your Instagram account is performing. A business account will give you access to built-in analytics into your account performance. An Instagram business account will show you a number of profile insights, including:
Impressions - the number of times your posts have been seen during a certain time frame.
Interactions - the number of actions taken on your account.
Profile visits - the number of profile views over the week.
Website clicks - the number of times visits to your profile have clicked the link to your website.
Call email/clicks - the total number of times profile visits clicked the call/email button from your profile page.
Mentions - the number of times other Instagram users have mentioned your account’s handle in the past 7 days.
An Instagram business account will also give you detailed analytics about your audience, including gender, age range, locations, and times of the day or week that your followers are most active.
If you’re looking for deeper analytics to understand your audience, like the performance of your brand hashtag, check out some of these top hashtag analytics tools.
You can use these audience insights and demographics to guide you in the best times to post content, the age groups you should focus on for giveaways/discounts, and any other kinds of advertising campaigns.
#6 Remember Who You Are: Keep Your Profile Focused on Your Brand
Let’s face it; there’s no need to post about food or fashion if you run a service-based industry. This is where SaaS industries struggle. They have no idea how to be active on an image-focused platform such as Instagram. Try to keep your posts topical and related to your brand. It may take some testing to see what kind of posts your followers engage the most with, but once you do, you should keep your Instagram feed centered around that theme. For example, Matt Benfield, an Instagram lifestyle influencer, noticed his posts that contained images of himself had higher engagement rates than other kinds of lifestyle shots on his feed. In this instance, it would make sense for Matt to continue to post images where he is in the photo until he notices that his followers are no longer engaging with the posts at the same rate.
It might take some experimentation to see which kind of content your followers engage with, so don’t be afraid to try out different styles of posts.
#7 Post Frequently and Consistently
The number of times you post to Instagram can be highly dependent on the type of brand/business you’re running. While some brands post up to 30 times a day, it might work better to start slow and share content a few times a week.When you’re starting out, try not to worry too much about the number of posts you make.
Focus more on consistently posting quality new content. It’s much better to focus on three high-quality posts per day than posting 10 times for a week and then not posting for a couple of weeks.
#8 Utilize Paid Growth Methods
Although organic growth methods work well, paid growth options are another alternative. If you've ever promoted content through Instagram, you'll know that Instagram allows you to control your spending and hone in on a very specific audience. This level of focus can be particularly useful if you're looking to promote a specific product to a particular target audience. With a host of different ad types to choose from (story ads, photo ads, carousel ads, IGTV, and more…), there are plenty of ways to reach your target audience. If you're just getting started, a top tip is to choose one of your most popular posts and promote it in your feed to a relevant audience and track the post's performance. You can then take these findings, re-evaluate, and start to consider whether you want to repeat the process to a larger audience.
While large brands can afford to partner with Instagram influencers with thousands or even millions of followers, smaller brands have to be more strategic about the type of influencers they partner with. Micro-influencers are a subset of influencers that have 1,000 to 10,000 followers, and can be more accessible (and even fruitful when it comes to conversions and engagement) for smaller brands. While it may seem counterintuitive to seek out influencers with smaller followings to promote your brand, the chances of a small brand working with a large Instagram influencer are quite slim. However, a hidden gem exists for micro-influencers when it comes to Instagram engagement.
Well-versed in their topics of interest and niche, micro-influencers typically see more engagement from their followers than larger-scale celebrities on Instagram. This is because they know their target audiences inside and out, and are more likely to interact with comments and posts from their followers. They are also more likely to engage one-on-one with their followers through DMs.While you may be tempted to shoot for influencers with soaring follower counts, it’s in your best interest to seek out micro-influencers whose followings align with your target audience. This kind of partnership will also end up being less expensive for you!
#10 Like and Comment on Other Accounts’ Posts
Ever gone on an Instagram liking spree? If you have, you may well have noticed your follower count slowly begin to grow. By liking and commenting on posts related to your industry or niche, you can actively engage with accounts and followers with similar interests. Your Instagram handle populates more space on the app when you engage with other accounts, making your brand more discoverable.
An easy way to do this is to make a list of your 5 top competitors. Once you’ve made your list, you can head over to their Instagram page and start taking a look at their list of followers and start following particular accounts. After following the accounts, you can start directly engaging with them by liking and commenting on their posts.
After a while, you may notice that a few of these accounts start following you back. As your following grows, keep an eye out for other related accounts in your niche, and start engaging with their followers.
Community > Virality
It can take some time to build an engaged following, so don't be discouraged if your following doesn't skyrocket overnight. And it’s not always about the numbers; developing an engaged and loyal following is more prosperous in the ecommerce world than paying for a large amount of fake followers.By posting high-quality content consistently, developing deep relationships with your followers, and using automation tools strategically, you can look forward to growing a large, thriving Instagram following that will lead to digital first-impressions as customers discover you online.
Pixlee TurnTo Contributor
Pixlee TurnTo welcomes contributed content from leading marketers, influencers and ecommerce experts.