Who this post is for: Small business owners or personal brands that understand the importance of Instagram to their social media strategy but don’t know where to start.
Instagram has seen some crazy growth over the last 12-18 months. Did you now this mobile app now boasts over 200 million monthly active users? Incredible!That’s probably why for the last 6 months, it seems to be all anyone is talking about. Perhaps you share this excitement but are overwhelmed by yet another social network you have to learn. I want to make it a little (or a lot)easier for you by sharing 5 simple steps to get you started on Instagram. Hope it helps! :)
1. Complete Your Bio
You have 200 characters to complete your bio so ensure it makes an impact. Include who you are, what you do, how you can help and something personal about you. It’s important to keep in mind that Instagram is a very raw and real platform. It’s a network used to showcase every day life. While you have full control over what you do and do not want to share, people want that personal connection.
Feel free to include emoticons /emoji’s in your bio. This is a great way to show a little personality. Just be aware that not all emoticons show up on all devices.
Use a professional headshot that is consistent with your other social media platforms. You want to make it easy for your audience to find you and having the same photo really helps with that. It also makes it clear that this is your Instagram account used for business.
Include your website link. The difficulty in driving traffic from Instagram is that the posts you put out don’t allow for clickable links. The one clickable link on your profile is under the bio so you’ve really got to utilise that. Be smart about the link you include. It doesn’t have to be your website. It should be the one page, platform or profile you want your audience to visit. For example, it may be a sales page. It may be a Twitter page. Heck, it may even be an article on someone else’s media that talks about you. Whatever you choose, just make sure, it’s a page that you want your visitors to see and a link that will help them on their journey with you as a person and a business.
2. Decide Your Strategy
As with any social network, it’s so important that you know your purpose for being on a particular social network. If you’re just there because people are telling you it’s important, regardless of what you post, you’re going to find it difficult to achieve any sustainable results.
What’s your intention? Instagram is social media in real life. It’s unique in that it’s designed to provide insight into your day-to-day life. You don’t have to worry about the 80-20 rule because people follow you to find out more about YOU. That is not permission to spam. The point I am making is that your objective for this network may be to build relationships rather than drive traffic or promote in the same way you would on Twitter or Facebook.
We all know that people buy from other people they like, know and trust. Instagram provides you with an opportunity to show people who you are and what you’re all about. For example, you could show a photo of you enjoying your morning coffee, taking a work selfie, snapping employees hard at work, behind the scenes, what you’re up to or events you’re at. You get the idea ;)
Of course you can share products, services and cross-promotional posts from time to time as part of your strategy but this native approach will do wonders in terms on building trust and relationships with your prospects.
If you decided on an objective that includes driving huge amounts of traffic or sales then you need to ensure that’s S.M.A.R.T. It is possible but in many industries, a lot harder.
3. Get Snapping!
Instagram has turned us all into professional photographers – high quality images are a must! You don’t have to post as frequently as you do on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, over posting is a horrible idea. However, it is important that you remain present and are consistent about posting images that give your audience an incentive to follow you. One or two images a day is plenty especially if you are just starting out.
Unlike other social platforms, the timings of your post don’t have to be set in stone. You can use a tool like Post.so or Schedu.gram to schedule some images but just keep in mind that the majority of Instagram content is posted in real time. To maintain that personal connection and authentic feel, do ensure you post in real time too.
Alternative images can include artwork and creative pieces. You can achieve this by integrating your work into a visually attractive image. Keep in mind that Instagram is a mobile- based social network. The reason it has been so successful is because images are far easier to digest that text. In fact, images are processed 60,000x faster than text. In an info-packed world, the value of visual content cannot be underestimated. Brand your images and make sure they stand out. Don’t worry if you’re not a Photoshop expert, there are some fantastic mobile apps you can use to create beautiful images in just a couple of minutes e.g. Word Swag, Insaquote and Pho.to.
As a business, it’s always important to get an idea of what is working and what isn’t working. To gain some idea of how effective your Instagram content strategy is, visit Iconosquare and take advantage of their free analytics. This will provide some great insight into the content and hashtags (see below) that are best resonating with your audience. Just don’t get too caught up in the stats. An integrated marketing strategy that delivers sales is the best measurement of results.
Hashtags are an essential element of your Instagram strategy. The day I started adding hashtags to my Instagram posts, I increased my followers by 20% in a single day. Yeah… that much! The coolest part was because these are hashtags I know my audience is searching for, the majority of followers I gained were relevant and people I can start building a relationship with. I honestly believe that without the use of hashtags in my posts, I would not have achieved any of the leads that I have over the last few months via Instagram.
You can search popular hashtags using web.stagram. I recommend categorising relevant hashtags in a word document that you can print out and keep handy.
A word (or two) of advice….
There is a limit to 30 hashtags per post – you should not need or use all of these, this is just to make you aware of the rules.
Also, if you are a small business, avoid setting up your own hashtag. If people don’t know you exist, how are they going to know your unique hashtag to search? This works for brands with a huge global presence but not small local businesses.
This seems obvious I know but it’s very easy to forget about engaging with your followers on Instagram. This is how relationships are built. Although you want to engage with every member of your community, prioritise your target audience, leads and customers. These are the groups that really need to feel like you care about them because you do! You’ve got to give to receive. Taking the time to really care about what’s going on in your customer’s lives shows authenticity – it let’s them know it’s more than just a sale.
These are just a few basic steps to get you going. If you have any other tips you’ve found very effective, please feel free to share them below. In the meantime, here are some action steps you can take today:
- Set your account up if you haven’t already. Complete your bio, add a professional profile and link to your desired website or landing page.
- Decide how Instagram is going to fit into your overall strategy. What’s your intention? How can you leverage your business using LinkedIn’s native platform. Start with an overall mission, some key goals and 3-5 steps you need to take in order to make that happen.
- Before following your audience, add a few Instagram posts to get you started. This means when someone lands on your profile, they have a reason to follow and see you are active.
- Research relevant hashtags, categorise them and print them out to use when posting on Instagram.
- Try to engage on 5-10 posts each day. Focus on your target audience and look for common interests that can be used to start a conversation.
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As always I hope you found this post to be valuable to your business. If you did, it would mean the world to me if you shared a comment below.
Have you seen successful with Instagram or have another tip you’d like to share? Well, that’s great too, let’s hear it :)
Oh and before I forget, say hi on Instagram. I’m @chloeforbeskindlen. – I love chatting with my social family!