Everyone is talking about social media marketing.
And with some explosive stats attached to it, Instagram marketing is a viable approach for businesses of all kinds to upsurge their social presence, brand authority, customer reach, sales, and revenue.
This form of marketing brings a more human feel to the way you engage with leads, prospects, and even existing customers, and opens your business to new (and better) opportunities. This perk alone makes it one of the holy grails of digital marketing.
But you still find it hard to steal a share of the 1 billion users currently using the platform despite the countless individuals, businesses, and influencers you've seen grow a loyal following on Instagram. The problem is not you; however, it's how you go about building your audience.
While a set of standard practices does not exist, here's a 6-step formula that will be a plus to your Instagram growth.
Step 1. Define your brand
According to the American Marketing Association, a brand is “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
In other words, your brand is the overall experience you give your customers. It's your promise to them, the combined elements of your company's character. This marketing practice covers everything from your company's mission to what your customers already think of your company.
A clear example is Coca-Cola. As the sixth most-valuable global brand and seventh most-pictured brand on Instagram, Coca-Cola has built enough brand equity to charge more than any other beverage company.
Further, obsessive research is the first step in any branding process. Focus on understanding the industry and competition (i.e., big brands and creative companies), current and prospective customers, and qualities you want them to associate with your business.
To spend less time defining your brand (because it can be complicated and time-consuming), here are some questions to ask:
Where is the industry heading?
What are others (especially the big players) doing in the industry?
What differentiates your offering from your competitors’?
What is your company promising and how are you delivering on that promise?
What is your company's mission or purpose?
What are your brand attributes? (E.g., relevancy, consistency, and credibility.)
Which voice can reflect your brand correctly?
Although there are many branding strategies out there, base yours on who your target customers want or need you to be. The trick is to expound how customers and competitors will perceive your brand.
Step 2. Know your audience
Any business, regardless of the size, needs to understand the importance of audience analysis (a term commonly used in technical and speech writing but applicable elsewhere).
This analysis involves observing the relevant elements that define the formation and characteristics of an audience. In your case, you need to gather information about the consumer of your product/service through thorough market research.
While big corporations and industry giants collect some absurd pieces of information, your audience analysis should focus on two types of data:
Demographics: Geolocation, age, race, religion, gender, marital status, family size, ethnicity, income, education, etc.
Psychographics: Personality, social class, values, lifestyle, AIO (activities, interests, and opinions), etc.
Demographics describe “who” your customers are while psychographics (with the use of psychological attributes) explain “why” they buy. By combining both types of data, you can create the ideal customer avatar (the best customer for your products and services) and buyer personas (fictional people that represent your best customer) to build trusted relationships with customers.
Pro-Tip: Don't go overboard with the amount of information you gather. Learn more about the respectful collection of demographic data. Also, check out the difference between customer avatars/profiles and buyer personas.
Step 3. Create an effective Instagram marketing strategy
You've spent some time understanding your brand and audience. Now, let's get back to Instagram.
Creating an Instagram marketing strategy is simple once you know who your Instagram audience is, what your Instagram marketing goals are, and how Instagram will integrate with your overall marketing strategy.
1. To understand your Instagram audience, use demographic and psychographic marketing to narrow down your search. Instagram is more specific than the general idea portrayed in the previous point, so you want to know the hashtags your target customers are using, when they mostly use the app, etc.
2. Keeping goals at the forefront will help save a lot of time, efforts, and resources. To start, write down what you wish to achieve on Instagram. “Marketing” as a goal is very vague, so focus on specific goals that you want to accomplish via Instagram. Do you want to build brand awareness? Drive more sales? Increase customer engagement? Showcase products and services?
3. For the last part, you need to determine if posting visual content on Instagram is integral to your marketing efforts. Does it cohere with your brand's identity and image? Is your target audience actively using the platform?
With all the info at hand, the next step is to formulate strategies that'd shape how to achieve those goals.
For instance, if you're looking to drive more sales, you should focus on engaging prospective customers with relevant content and using killer call-to-actions. You want to make good use of Stories, Live, and IGTV to showcase your products and services. Your profile picture and bio should likewise state what your business is all about.
Here are some pointers to keep note of:
Reach the right people.
Watch the competition to understand how to beat competitors. (Research the best posts in your industry and the engagement rates of 5-10 competitors or similar brands.)
Know for sure that you're findable on Instagram.
Be where your customers are and listen to what they have to say.
Be helpful to potential and existing customers.
Integrate your customers’ voice in yours.
Step 4. Provide valuable content
"Content is king."
These three simple words helped Bill Gates become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the history of technology.
Content, in this context, is extensive. But on a photo-sharing platform like Instagram, photos and videos that supply “information or entertainment” to your audience is your content. And complementing the content with engaging captions is just as important.
A significant reason providing valuable content works is that it can help attract broad audiences. One trick is to create a plethora of content that does three things:
Convey relevant information
Showcase your brand's identity and image (build content around a similar theme)
Check out Buffer's guide on how to write the best content marketing strategy that'll help you achieve your Instagram marketing goals. An active practice is to deliver content that resonates your brand's identity. Depending on your brand and audience, this could be inspirational quotes, historical photos, user-generated content, behind-the-scenes, video stories, animated videos, testimonials, open-ended questions, fun facts, brand story, etc.
5. Understand what works on Instagram
Instagram, as a marketing platform, has no set rules or customs but here some tactics that work:
Use relevant hashtags wisely and branded hashtags creatively
Post frequently using a scheduling tool like Hootsuite or Buffer
Run contests and giveaways
Have influencers and established IG pages (that hold your target audience) advertise your account to wider audiences
Write engaging captions
Use killer call-to-actions
Measure and analyze marketing metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) such as brand awareness, customer engagement, and customer retention
Engage with other users and avoid robotic interactions
Pro-Tip: Posting frequency is unique to each Instagram page. Find out when your audience is most active, and the number of posts competitors and similar brands publish per day. Stick with being active yet non-spammy.
Step 6. Be committed to growth
Building a large Instagram following is like building a relationship. It's all about commitment.
The Instagram community favors businesses that are consistent and committed to certain decisions. Be committed to growing your Instagram audience by following the steps mentioned above with diligence.
Pro-Tip: Stay committed to the holy trinity of the Instagram algorithm (interest, timeliness, and relationship) to grow your Instagram audience.
P.S. One size does not fit all. Therefore, all the tactics we've visited in this piece should be adapted to fit your unique business operations—branding, analysis, and strategy. Cheers!