In the past, Instagram has not been considered a strong marketing tool. Merely a photo-sharing platform for friends to stay connected. This is not the case anymore. Instagram has become a powerful social media tool that allows us to deliver our brand’s message to our target audience. This guide encompasses everything you need to know to grow your business through Instagram.
The End Goal: Instagram Engagement
The image above, shows a massive engagement level. Millions of likes and thousands of comments. To obtain this “Nike level engagement” is a tall mountain to climb. But with the right strategy, you can come close. The main driving force behind Instagram’s success—and its knack for making others successful—is engagement. An account with high engagement uploads photos and videos yielding a significantly high number of likes and comments. Not necessarily followers, however. Your Instagram account can have thousands of followers, but if few are interacting with your content, it is essentially useless. When it comes to Instagram followers, choose quality over quantity every time.
What if you want to grow your follower base and engagement, but you don’t have many followers to start? You will have to do some digging. Look at your competitors. Navigate through their posts, looking for actively commenting users. Follow them and make them feel valued. The goal is for these users to engage with your content, just as they do with your competing Instagram accounts. After becoming acquainted with your content and the business itself, these engaging followers will be more likely to convert to leads and sales; when used effectively, Instagram can act as an effective sales funnel. After you interact with these potential followers, wait 48 hours before unfollowing if they fail to follow you. This act of “pruning” your Instagram connections will make your page seem credible—not desperate.
As an unestablished page, another way to gain followers and engagement is to join an “Instagram pod.” An Instagram pod is an exclusive group—usually created and maintained on Facebook. The idea is you paste a link to the post you want “boosted,” others in the group like and comment on it, and you do the same for (on average 10) others in the group. Some groups are better than others, regarding quality of engaged users, but all of them have strict rules. While this growth method will boost your likes, comments, and saves over your time in the group; if you leave, your new content will not carry over the pod engagement traction from before. This tremendous drop in engagement would make your business seem untrustworthy. Another downside is that pod members will most likely not care about purchasing your product or service offering, so sales will not be directly generated.
This drawback is also true for simply “buying followers” There are many services out there that will take your money in return for hundreds to thousands of bots to follow your account. This makes your account seem successful at a glance, but the ratio of followers to engagement would be catastrophically low. You would also risk your account being banned for violation of Instagram’s terms of service—long story short, we do not advise purchasing followers.
Hashtags: Not Just Teenager Slang
Hashtags are the “SEO juice” of Instagram. The hashtags pictured above are directed at small businesses, marketers, and more. Including them in your posts is vital if you want your engagement to increase. You can include hashtags in your post description or comments. There are many schools of thought on the most effective number of hashtags to use in a post. Some see 11 as the magic number, but studies have been done essentially proving “the more the merrier.” I would recommend using all 30 available to you—the extra 19 will not hurt. You may add these hashtags in a comment immediately after posting if you wish to hide them from your audience’s first glance.
Choosing the right hashtags can be tedious, but it definitely pays off. Try to avoid the broad, popular tags such as “#cool” or “#business.” Your post will be lost in a never-ending feed of untargeted content. Hashtag feeds move fast for popular tags and slow for specific, niche feeds. This means your posts with targeted hashtags will be available for viewing (and engaging) longer.
Search potential hashtags on Instagram to find their popularity. Incorporating a broad range of specific tags will effectively spread your post around diverse feeds. Instagram has recently introduced the ability to follow hashtags as well. This means users will see your content even if they are not following you. AKA, the top of the Instagram sales funnel.
Paid Advertising: Get Discovered!
Paid advertising on Instagram is rarely used compared to other social media ads in the digital marketing world. It is quite similar to Facebook, however. In the image above, the San Diego Padres and Game Ticket effectively targeted myself (a 35 year old man) with this demographic-based paid advertising. Essentially, you pay Instagram to put your content in front of your target audience. This can be done on Instagram “stories,” or on your audience’s news feed. Instagram states “60% of people say they discover new products on the platform, and 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post.” The more money you invest in paid ads, the more users your content will reach; not to mention greater control of which groups see your message.
Instagram takes advantage of Facebook’s already existing demographics data, in order to give you various methods to find your target audience. You can group them by location, age, gender, language, education, financial, politics, relationship, interests, behaviors, connections, and more. You can also target a custom audience of users already in your sales funnel or target a “lookalike audience” with similar traits to your current custom audience. The average cost for these ads is about 70 cents per click. The budget and scheduling process is extremely similar to AdWords and Facebook. Just make sure your Instagram advertisements stay true to your brand and maintain this pattern throughout your various campaigns.
Instagram Growth Summary
If social media platforms are blades on a swiss army knife, Instagram is one of the sharpest, yet not overly-used daggers. With a focus on engagement, proper hashtag use, and smart advertising, your business can grow immensely through Instagram—and the platform is only going to get bigger from here. Your growth will expectedly translate to leads and sales, if nurtured correctly. If this is your goal, we hope this guide to growing your business through Instagram helps you achieve it. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding growth through social media, or digital marketing in general.
Author: Daniel Barry
Daniel Barry is an Advisor at SunCity. His background is in digital marketing, SEO and operational management. His client portfolio includes successful partnerships with startups, small businesses, medium-sized firms & large corporations.
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