This post was originally published on 9/25/14 and has since been updated.
Companies have realized that Instagram is another opportunity to market their products in a visual and lifestyle-centric manner, and when you scroll through your Instagram feed nowadays, it usually doesn’t take a lot of swipes before you come upon branded or marketed posts. You have to wonder though, how are these businesses or companies making money by being on Instagram, and should my business be on it too? So before we go over some best practices that you can implement if you do decide to add Instagram to your social marketing plan, here are some positive and negative takeaways about the image-based platform that can help you make a decision.
Users are on Instagram to take and post photos of a myriad of different things, but one thing that remains constant is that they are centered on a user’s lifestyle. That’s what Instagram is, a consumer platform that has content based on the livelihood of consumers. You need product or service images with lifestyle themes that act as soft product pushes to attract your target audience. While a lot of these issues are easily resolved, a real downfall of Instagram for marketers is that it does not support hyperlinked URLs on posts and only in a profile’s bio. If you have to spend a lot of time trying to think of how to visually show your products or services on Instagram, then the platform is probably not for you. Simply put, a clothing store is going to have a much easier time marketing itself on Instagram than a law firm.
If you do decide that Instagram could work for your business or company, here are some realistic expectations that you should set when starting to implement it into your social media marketing strategy. When managing and posting on Instagram, you should think of the platform as a brand-centric avenue to connect with your target audience outside the realm of sales transactions. Show your customers your personality and make your brand memorable. If you do want to keep track of how much you’re getting out of investing in Instagram, start by monitoring your engagement level on your posts and the number of follows you are receiving on a weekly or monthly basis. Seeing a visible increase in your online ROI immediately after creating a branded Instagram account is very unlikely, and it could take some time before you see an actual uptick. It’s best to think of Instagram as atop of the funnel conversion tool that can grow your brand awareness and initially track potential customers.
Still interested in creating an Instagram account for your business or company? Here are some best practices that I took away from the best brands on Instagram that should help you get started:
1) Keep a Balanced Content Calendar
Instagram is a lifestyle-based consumer oriented platform, and your content calendar should also reflect that with an even amount of product and lifestyle-focused images. What does your ideal customer do in their free time? Post lifestyle photos that you think would interest them, but stay true to what you want your brand to represent. Kate Spade’s Instagram account is a great example of finding the right balance between product and lifestyle images photos with the seamless integration of products into their lifestyle shots. Not only is Kate Spade featuring their products on Instagram, they are showing their target audience who they are in terms of company culture.
2) Avoid Posting More Than Once per Day
You do not want to be the annoying brand that your followers see every single time they swipe through their feed. Instagram is not like Twitter in terms of sending out content or material every hour or so like clockwork. Images say a lot more than words, so put some time and thought into your Instagram posts to maximize their effect on your audience.
In order to garner the most attention from your posts, it’s essential to post when your followers and potential customers are active on Instagram. The most optimal time to post will vary depending on your business or industry, but anytime around regular business hours (8 AM – 9 PM) should be a good time to post content that your audience sees and engages with. Some weekend hours are also a good time to post on Instagram, seeing as there is less competition among other brands, but the ideal time to post on weekends is going to vary based on industry.
3) Show Your Product At Work
Compared to other platforms, Instagram is much more personal for your target audience because of the image-based nature of the channel. To really speak to them, your Instagram profile should feature images of your products in everyday use, or how a customer would interact with your products. The Skimm, a daily email newsletter for women, posts what look like natural photos of how their consumers might interact with their product. As a large majority of their target audience reads their email in the morning, you can see in the below image how the Skimm has incorporated a breakfast photo with their email newsletter opened on an iPhone.
4) Tell Your Followers On Other Social Media Platforms That You’re on Instagram
If you don’t tell your followers on your Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms that you’re on Instagram, it’s very unlikely that they will discover your Instagram account. Include the Instagram social button on your website and email newsletters. Cross promote your social media accounts with creative and fun promos and competitions to encourage your followers on Facebook or Twitter to follow you on Instagram as well. By successfully leveraging your audience from your other social media channels, you can gain more initial followers and engagement on Instagram.