Businesses all over the world are using Instagram to improve their bottom lines – a figure that makes sense when you consider that 80% of people follow a business on the platform.
But there are a lot of businesses that have yet to take advantage of what Instagram has to offer.
If your business belongs to this group, you’ll be happy to know that achieving great results with Instagram isn’t as complicated as you might think.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the 7 ways to succeed with Instagram as a business.
We’ll look at some of the precise Instagram marketing strategies you can take advantage of, in addition to some of the higher-level concepts you’ll want to keep in mind, too.
By the end of this post, you’ll understand how Instagram can help your business reach more people and generate more revenue in the process.
1. Focus on creating high-quality content
You need to prioritize the creation of high-quality content above all else.
Images posted to Instagram generate 23% more engagement than Facebook – but you’ll only be able to experience this if your content is of a high standard.
If you don’t have much experience with Instagram (even as a non-business user), you may want to change that and use the platform as a normal user.
When you use Instagram as a normal user, you can better appreciate how the platform works from the perspective of potential customers.
So, if you haven’t done so already, set up an Instagram account.
Be sure to follow a bunch of companies that are active on the platform, too.
In doing so, you’ll be able to see first-hand what does and doesn’t work in relation to the business case for Instagram.
If you come across anything that catches your attention, be sure to screenshot it. You can then use these images as inspiration when creating your own content.
Let’s look at the different kinds of content you can post on the platform.
One content style that works well is ‘behind the scenes’ content.
This is content designed to show the process that goes into creating whatever it is that you’re selling.
Here’s an example from Rolls Royce.
This kind of content works well on two levels.
For one, it shows that the company cares about quality and about doing things in the best way possible.
If you can show people that your brand believes in producing the best content, there’s an increased chance that people will want to buy into your brand.
Showcasing a behind-the-scenes look also gives you the chance to make your company more ‘human.’
Potential customers will feel better about buying into your brand if you can show them that the people behind the brand care about doing high-quality work.
Another type of business content that works well on Instagram is product photos.
Product photos are just that – photos that you’ve taken of your product.
Here’s a great example from the Raymond Weil Instagram page.
If your product has any defining characteristics, you can show them off in these photos.
The caveat here is that you need to take high-quality photos.
Taking high-quality photos doesn’t need to be hard, and you can do a good job using your phone.
One of the biggest factors that can impact the quality of your photos is lighting, and you’ll want to make use of natural lighting as much as possible.
Even if you can’t take your product outside, consider shooting next to an open window.
When it comes to how you should be taking photos, keep in mind the earlier point I made about studying other Instagram business accounts.
Other accounts will teach you a lot about the kinds of styles and formats you can use for your photos, all of which you can use to inspire the creation of your own content.
Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you develop your own sense of style (something we’ll touch on later).
Instagram Stories is a relatively new feature within Instagram. This feature lets you share video and image content in a slideshow format.
The video content is typically less than 30 seconds, and content shared via an Instagram Story will disappear within 24 hours.
Using Instagram Stories, you can combine the different kinds of content that we’ve covered thus far.
Because it only lasts for 24 hours, the content you use for Instagram Stories doesn’t need to be as polished as what you’d normally post.
However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Because Instagram Stories have an informal feel to them, engagement tends to be higher since people feel as though they’re experiencing something ‘real.’
If you don’t have the time to constantly create high-quality content, Instagram Stories can help you keep your followers engaged during the down times in your content output.
2. Engage your audience
When using Instagram, or any platform for that matter, it’s important to take the time to engage with your audience.
This will help your audience feel valued, which increases the odds that they’ll check in on future content and like it or leave a comment.
The easiest way to engage your audience is by responding to the comments that people have left on your feed.
A simple ‘thanks’ can go a long way toward showing commenters that you appreciate their input.
Answering questions that have been left by your audience is also a great way to engage.
Another way to engage your audience is by asking them to do something.
Here’s an example from the Foundr Instagram profile.
All this profile is asking people to do is tag someone who might benefit from seeing the image.
Though it’s a simple request, it does a good job of getting people to comment and engage with the content being posted.
You may find that some people are going to leave complaints within the comments.
When people leave complaints, it’s important that you are quick to respond.
A fast response can help someone feel as though you take their concerns seriously and that you value customer service.
When responding to such comments, avoid having a discussion within the comments section.
Direct people to reach out (or vice versa) via ‘Direct Message’ so that you can solve the issue in private.
3. Appreciate the importance of maintaining a consistent brand
You might think that I’ve covered the importance of branding when I discussed high-quality content earlier.
However, the issue of branding relates to more than just the quality of your content.
Branding relates to every aspect of your Instagram account.
The style of your images, the captions you use, and the frequency with which you post content all contribute to your brand.
If you can develop a unique style for your profile, and if you’re consistent with that style, it becomes easier to generate brand awareness – especially if and when your content is shared.
The Oreo Instagram account is a great example of how you can showcase a consistent branding style.
A unique brand, portrayed consistently, also helps you develop an Instagram profile that will naturally appeal to your target audience.
This makes it easier to attract the right kinds of followers, and you can more easily generate a return from your Instagram marketing.
4. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a big trend at the moment, and Instagram makes it easy for businesses to take advantage.
An influencer marketing campaign requires you to find other Instagram accounts that are willing to accept payment in exchange for promoting your brand.
This is typically done in the form of a sponsored post.
Influencer marketing can drive high ROI, and the graphic shown below does a great job at illustrating this fact.
I’ve used Instagram influencer marketing to generate traffic to my webinars.
The resulting traffic meant I was able to generate $332,640 from $75,000 in ad spend.
It can take some experimentation, however, to get influencer marketing right.
You should accept that you might lose some money on your initial influencer marketing campaigns.
Treat those losses as the cost of your education, and use what you learn from your initial campaigns to develop future campaigns that will have an increased chance of success.
In any case, there are some things that you can do to improve the odds of your influencer campaigns succeeding, even if you’re new to all this.
The first is learning how to find accounts that would be a good match for what you’re trying to promote.
You can use a ‘middleman’ to help find influencers with a relevant audience, and there are many websites that offer this service.
However, a lot of influencers prefer brands reaching out to them directly, as shown below.
This is actually a good thing for you.
By approaching influencers directly, you won’t have to pay a premium for having someone else find influencer marketing opportunities for you.
If you want to find influencer marketing opportunities, you can use ‘Instagram search.’
To do this, type in a keyword that relates to whatever it is that you’re trying to promote within the search dialog box at the top of the Instagram website.
For the purpose of this post, I’m using ‘running.’
Upon typing in this keyword, you’ll be presented with a bunch of accounts that relate to this topic.
All of these accounts are worth approaching in the name of running an influencer marketing campaign.
You don’t have to always rely on finding accounts that are within the same niche as you.
Remember that it’s all about finding people who share an audience that will find your promotional efforts relevant.
So, suppose you sell ‘running shoes.’
The obvious strategy here (as shown above) is to approach accounts dedicated to running.
And while this is a good approach, you can also go about things another way.
Since relevance is your guiding principle, you don’t have to reach out to profiles that only relate to running.
You could also contact accounts dedicated to weight loss, nutrition, and other aspects of health and fitness. These accounts arguably have followers who’ll be interested in running too.
If you need ideas for related accounts/niches to target, look at the ‘hashtags’ that are being used on the posts, related to your original keyword.
After typing in ‘running,’ I managed to locate a post that had the following hashtags.
All of these hashtags can be typed into the Instagram search feature to find relevant accounts.
Once you know how to find accounts, you then need to learn how to identify which accounts are worth approaching and which ones you should ignore.
So what signifies that an account is going to be worth approaching for an influencer marketing campaign?
There are two things you’ll want to check for:
- The number of followers they have
- The level of engagement their content is achieving
When it comes to followers, try to find accounts with at least 50,000.
If the account doesn’t have enough followers, you likely won’t be able to drive a decent ROI.
Ideal engagement levels can be tricky to quantify.
In some cases, engagement is more important than follower count.
High levels of engagement can often signify trust.
If there’s a lot of trust, followers will be more inclined to take action on any recommendations made to them.
Check that the content that’s being posted to the account is receiving plenty of comments and that these comments are meaningful.
Also, check if the content is achieving plenty of likes, too.
If you’d like a benchmark engagement figure, look at other accounts in the niche, and you should be able to see what figures are ideal.
When approaching influencer accounts, be respectful of the rules that they might have.
Influencers don’t want to tarnish their relationships with their audiences, so they’ll be specific about what they do and don’t allow in terms of promotional content.
Sticking to these guidelines is in your best interest since you’ll want the promotion to seem genuine. An authentic relationship will lead to the greatest levels of engagement.
Pricing can also be a bit complicated, and the amount you pay can vary from campaign to campaign.
Even the niche you’re going after can change the amount you’re going to pay, as shown by the chart below.
A lot of Instagram accounts aren’t making any money from their profiles, so don’t feel pressured to start out spending big.
The average for an Instagram sponsored post is $300, so you can get many of them on board by offering between $100 and 300 per promotional post.
Throwing out a ballpark figure in the range suggested above can be a great way to ‘test the waters,’ thereby preventing you from overspending.
Of course, the bigger the account is, the more that they’ll want to charge you.
Keep in mind that if an account has a history of producing results for their past clients, a high dollar figure could be worth it.
5. Instagram Ads
Even though there are over 1 million businesses advertising on Instagram, there’s still plenty of room for your business to get in on the action.
Setting up an Instagram ad campaign is covered in an entire blog post, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t cover some of the key points.
If you have some experience with Facebook Advertising, however, you should find the process of setting up Instagram ads easy.
Before running your Instagram ads, you need to be clear about what you want to achieve as a result of running a campaign.
Broadly speaking, you can achieve the following goals with the help of Instagram ads:
- Brand awareness
Ads that generate brand awareness tend to be fundamentally different from ads that are going to generate sales.
The images used in such ads may be based on showcasing things other than the products or services you sell.
They may showcase a behind-the-scenes look or tell a certain story, for instance.
Here’s an example from Land Rover.
When people click on brand awareness ads, they might be taken your Instagram profile so that they can follow your account and receive updates when you post future content.
This is opposed to being taken to a product page.
Ads that are designed to generate sales are often more direct.
The images used for ads focused on generating sales tend to showcase a specific product. The description is also written so that the price and benefits of the products are made clear.
Here’s an example from Inspiralized.
When people click on this kind of ad, they’ll be taken to the product page where they can decide to make a purchase.
The kind of ad campaign you decide to run is going to depend on what you’re hoping to achieve.
Sure, a brand-awareness campaign can help you increase the number of people who are aware of your company and therefore likely to buy from you.
But achieving that kind of scenario takes time, and the results aren’t always immediately observable.
So if you’re wanting to generate a quick return from your ads, a sales-focused ad campaign will likely be the better choice for you.
No matter what your goals are, the two biggest factors that will determine your success with Instagram Advertising are:
- The ad creative
- The ad targeting
The creative is essentially the ‘thing’ that people see when they see your ad.
You’ll be able to get great results by sticking to some of the principles we covered earlier when it comes to creating high-quality content.
For instance, here’s an example of an ad, that showcases a product image.
If you have a software solution, you can still show off your product. Here’s an example of how you can do that.
Developing a compelling creative isn’t necessarily easy, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get things right the first time around.
Because of this, it helps to study what everyone else is doing. You can then emulate (but not copy/steal) what catches your attention.
You’ll get the best results with this when you question the principles behind the ads that caught your eye. Use what you learn to create future campaigns founded on solid reasoning.
You’ll want to use some split testing with your campaigns to increase the odds of creating a winning ad.
Split testing (or A/B testing) is where you create multiple variations of the same ad, but change the image, the description/copy, or the audience you’re targeting.
For most campaigns, it’s best to split-test the image above all else.
This is because, for Instagram ads, the image tends to have the biggest impact on someone’s willingness to click, especially since the platform is so visual.
If you want to get your ad targeting spot on, you need to be clear about who your audience is.
List 3-4 interests of your target audience. Also, note down the location of your target market and the ideal age range to focus on.
As with the creative, you’re free to split-test your targeting once your campaign has been running for a while and you’ve been able to observe what is and isn’t working.
Let’s take a brief look at how you can setup a campaign.
If you want to set up an Instagram ad campaign, you can do so by visiting https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager/creation/.
You should then see this screen.
Select an objective that best matches your needs.
Keep in mind that for Instagram, you can use only certain objectives.
For this post, we’ll focus on the Traffic objective, since this will apply to most people.
In the next section, you’ll need to input ‘Targeting’ information.
In this post, we’re going to create a campaign designed to sell running shoes, so that’s why I’ve chosen the campaign settings shown below.
Make sure you deselect all other placements apart from the Instagram Placement. If you’re not planning on using any Instagram Story ads, deselect that placement too.
Select a bidding option that works best for you.
You’ll want to spend at least $10 a day to get a good sense of how Instagram ads work.
In the next section, you get to tinker with the specifics of your ad. First, though, you need to make sure that you have a Facebook Page that will be ‘linked’ to this ad.
You’ll then pick an image for the ad, keeping in mind some of the principles we covered earlier.
When you scroll down, you’ll be able to adjust the copy for the ad. You can also adjust the call to action here.
Be sure to select the ‘Instagram feed’ option when editing your ad so that you can see what it will actually look like within Instagram.
If you haven’t done so already, set the destination to ‘Website URL.’
Then click on ‘Confirm’ to review your ad and let Facebook review it.
As soon as Facebook has approved the ad, it will start running on Instagram.
At that point, you need to keep an eye on the results returned so you can figure out if you need to put more money behind the campaign or bring it to halt.
Contests are another way that businesses can succeed with Instagram.
They’ll help you improve the levels of engagement while also giving you the chance to reward your followers.
There are many kinds of contests that you can run. One of my favorites is the giveaway.
Here’s an example of a brand that is running a contest on Instagram:
This is where you offer to give something away as a prize for a certain action.
You might ask someone to caption a photo, and then you can reward the best caption.
Or you might ask people to upload a photo of them using your product, and the person with the best photo receives the prize.
When executed properly, contests like this have the ability to be widely shared.
The exposure you’re able to achieve as a result of a giveaway often outweighs the price of the item you’re giving away.
This is especially true if you compare it to what you’d otherwise be able to achieve using a paid ad campaign.
7. Automate posting
Businesses achieve the best results with Instagram when they post often and in a consistent manner.
The problem, though, is that it can take a lot of time to maintain a rigorous posting regime – time you might need to spend on other aspects of your business.
To overcome this issue, you can make use of solutions that will automate the content-posting process for you.
Preload these solutions with your desired content, say once a week, and they’ll be able to take care of your Instagram posting schedule – leaving you to focus on other things.
While there are many options to choose from, Buffer is perhaps the best solution to go with.
One of the great things about Buffer is that it can provide you with some analytics based on how your content is performing.
These metrics are helpful because you can use what you learn to optimize your campaigns in the future.
Let’s say that you want to encourage people to share your content.
You can review existing pieces of content that have achieved a lot of shares to figure out the secret sauce.
Use what you learn to create future content that will have an increased chance of being shared.
While you might be new to the idea of using Instagram to promote your business, after reading this post, you should now have a good sense of how to get started.
It’s okay if you struggle to begin with because that’s expected.
Once you begin to implement some of the ideas that we’ve covered in this post, you’ll develop a greater sense of what does and doesn’t work for your business when it comes to Instagram.
Create high-quality content. Engage your audience. Reach out to influencers, create Instagram ads, and run a few contests.
All of these activities can help you build a better Instagram presence.
What have you found to work best when it comes to using Instagram as a business?