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 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 business's following, promote a new product, access a new audience, and even make sales. Moreover, recent research shows that nearly two thirds of users say they find out about new products or services via Instagram, and 75% continue to take action; clicking on bio links, making a purchase and sharing posts.
Instagram has it’s own set of rules, features and best practices that make it different from Facebook and Google Ads. 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 via a specific hashtag which allows your content to be grouped with others' content. Likewise, you can follow hashtags on Instagram which will bring up related posts. 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 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 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. 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 are 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, and try not to be too spammy.
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? Firstly, check out our article "Building an engaged Instagram following in 6 steps" and see what you can do for your page. Aside from building a following, another marketing choice that has gained a lot of popularity with the Instagram business community is sponsored posts/partnerships. In short, this is when a company pays or gives an incentive to another account, likely a celebrity or influencer, 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 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 via Facebook
Some of Instagram’s ads, or “promoted posts,” as they are call in the app, are created through Facebook’s power editor feature, that you may be familiar with for creating Facebook ads. However, you are also able to promote posts on Instagram without linking them to Facebook by simply clicking "promote post". More on that below.
Within the power editor, you can choose the audience demographic you want to reach, the amount of money you want to allocate 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 and the content they are engaging with so that your ads look classy and low-key instead of over the top.
Instagram promotions are a newer feature, and can be accessed when you switch your Instagram account from "personal" to "professional" (remember, you can always switch back). Once you have done this, you can now promote your posts without any help from the Facebook power editor. Next to "edit profile" you will now have a button that says "promotions", and the "promote" feature will now be available under every picture on your account, next to "view insights".
Speaking of insights, switching to a business account gives you essential information on how many users view your profile, reach your account, take actions from your stories, follower demographics and so on. In terms of looks, promoted posts mention "sponsored" under the handle on the top left, and usually have a call-to-action button.
Now that you have all the info you need about how to be an Instagram Marketing God, it's time to put your knowledge to action. The best way is to check out other business pages similar to yours and see what kind of promotion combinations they are using. Likewise, YouTube is also great for tutorials, so do a little check and see what you can find on the topic of marketing on Instagram (a few thousand videos for sure). For some more general info on SMM, check out our post "SMM tips that will help your B2C business grow". Good luck on your marketing journey!