Marketer’s guide to Instagram

Written by  Lina Abascal and Gog Zalibekyan / 15 January 2016
Marketer’s guide to Instagram
When you hear Instagram, what do you think about? Selfies? Filters? Celebrities? Spammy posts? Well everyone’s favorite photo centric social network has all of those, but it’s also a great, and frankly at this point required, marketing tool. While you may be doing great on your personal Instagram, make sure to take a marketing specific approach when using Instagram to grow your businesses following, promote a new product, access a new audience, and even make sales. Instagram has it’s own set of rules, features, and best practices that make marketing successfully on it different from Facebook and Google Adwords.

We’ve broken down a few Instagram buzzwords and how you can use them to your advantage when marketing on the ever-evolving platform.
Hashtags have definitely made their way to platforms aside from Twitter and Instagram (including many where they serve no actual purpose), but hashtags are still a useful, easy, and free way to gain marketing value on Instagram. A hashtag is a word or phrase that comes after a pound sign such as #travel. These work as keywords and groups on Instagram. Other users can search for content by a specific hashtag which allows your content to be grouped with others content. Track trending hashtags on the popular page as well as Twitter’s trending topics feed to see what topics you should align your brand’s Instagram content with for maximum visibility.

Alternatively, using a hashtag that isn’t necessarily popular, but very specific can draw not millions of eyes, but perhaps hundreds or dozens of the RIGHT eyes to your product. Your brand or company page can develop your own brand-specific hashtags to chronicle your own content, recurring themes, franchises, or seasonal content such as #YourBrandNameExclusive or #WinterFashion.

Another emerging trend is mixing useful traceable hashtags with fun, personal hashtags that exist almost as an extension of the caption or copywriting. They are not only a place to categorize, source, and organize content but also to get creative and showcase your brand voice.

Marketers and Instagram users will disagree, but there is plenty of debates around when an account has taken hashtags too far. Make sure you stay true to your brand and authentic even when using hashtags.

Use of Links
Unlike nearly every other social network, Instagram was not created to support linking to a specific site in captions or comments. While this is nice and avoids a lot of the spammy feeling present on other networks, it is a continued challenge for marketers. Some users have tried to “hack” this by manually typing in a URL in the “location” field on the top of an Instagram post, but even this does not work or hyperlink to a URL.

The only place a working link can be used on Instagram is in the bio section of an account. This displays on the top of a profile page. Those using Instagram for marketing purposes have gotten creative by prompting users to visit their bio by placing copy such as “link to purchase in bio” on their posts.

Not being able to drive traffic to a specific site from your Instagram posts can make it difficult to get viewers to a specific part of your website. Rather than staying frustrated about this, use this as motivation to make your homepage as easy to navigate as possible and get creative with your bio links, captions, and use of comment engagement to clarify.

Partnerships & Sponsored Posts
So how do you get your business or product out there on Instagram when your own following isn’t doing enough? There are a couple ways, but one way that has made big waves with the Instagram, marketing, and tastemaker community is sponsored posts or partnerships. In short, this is when a company (typically) pays or incentivizes another account, likely a celebrity, personality, or someone influential in their space, to feature their product in their own Instagram content. Sometimes these posts require the poster to include #sponsored or #ad in their caption, but sometimes depending on the terms of the agreement, this can be avoided which results in a more authentic feeling post.

This has carved out an entirely new source of revenue for social influencers, and has brought previously unknown companies and products to the forefront of the entire world’s feed. How well does it work? Well that depends on the partnership, the budget, and the strategy, but it continues to be one of the primary ways marketers gain the exposure, engagement, and results they are looking for through something as simple as one Instagram post.

Promoted Posts
Up until recently, Instagram had no way to promote or advertise on the platform in a traditional sense, hence the above partnerships and sponsored posts. All Instagram’s ads, or “promoted posts,” as they are call in the app, are created through Facebook’s (who owns Instagram) power editor feature that you may be familiar with for creating Facebook ads.

Within the power editor, you can choose the audience demographic you want to reach, the amount of money you want to allot to the round of ads, the time frame you want to run the ads, and of course, the exact image and caption you want to appear.

Paid promoted posts are not the favorite of long time Instagram users, but when the content is well targeted and executed, they fit right in with the curation of accounts they follow and can be well received. Get an idea of the audience you are trying to reach the content they are following and engaging with so your Instagram content doesn’t stick out like a paid ad desperate for some attention.

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