If you’re reading this, then you’re serious about growing your brand on Instagram. With 800 million users worldwide, Instagram is no longer optional, but a must in your digital arsenal. Plus, Instagram has the highest audience engagement compared to all other social networking platforms.
And since it’s changed so much from 2015, 2016 and even the beginning of 2017, you want to make sure you know what’s actually working and trending right now, so you maximize the time and effort you put into growing your Instagram audience.
Here are the steps you need to take to build a solid Instagram presence in the year ahead:
1. Create your Instagram strategy
Before anything else, you must develop a strategy for your Instagram activity. Here are the core pillars of a robust, result-driven strategy:
Objectives: First, answer why you want to incorporate Instagram into your marketing mix? Is it email list growth? Website clicks? Increasing sales or brand awareness? Something else?
Target audience: Identify two or three customer personas that you intend to target via your marketing efforts. This will help develop your content strategy.
Competitor research: Check out your competitors’ social media profiles to see what’s already working for them.
Content plan: This includes what content to post, when to post it and how to boost your engagement. Plus, what words, hashtags and photo filters to use for maximum effect.
Fine-tuning: Which metrics should be monitored to ensure you stay on track to reach your goals? Consider tracking engagement, reach, audience sentiment, traffic, conversions and sales.
Once you get the basics down, you can start building your Instagram follower base.
2. Choose your style and theme
Your style means setting the tone, the overall mood and feel of your account. How do you want your overall Instagram feed to look? Dark, colorful, natural, minimalist, vintage? This will determine the color palette and type of photos / videos you’ll be sharing.
Choose 3 – 5 colors and stick to them. This is going to be your color palette.
Check out these feeds. Do you notice something?
Instagram feed example 1:
Instagram feed example 2:
Instagram feed example 3:
Instagram feed example 4:
Instagram feed example 5:
Instagram feed example 6:
They all revolve around a very distinct color scheme and overall vibe. You can see the same set of colors in all of their photos. That’s how they maintain a consistent look and feel. Always pay attention to the colors in your photos, including the background, the subjects, the outfits, etc.
You can start developing your unique style by using the same filter over and over again, to make your feed look cohesive. Your filter will become your ‘signature’. People will recognize your account as soon as they see a photo with your filter.
Next, the theme. A theme is about the core essence of what you post. What do you want your account to be known for? What do you love to post about? What’s your core strength? What do your photos say about you, without having to use a single word? Choose 3 – 5 things you love most and always make your posts about these things.
Creating an attractive Instagram account is similar to creating an online dating profile. It has to be as catchy and descriptive as possible to hook your potential followers at first sight.
When someone visits your profile to see if they should follow you, they first see your Instagram feed as a whole, rather than looking at each photo separately. So, developing a cohesive theme that resonates with your brand and content is crucial.
3. What hashtags to use
Now that your feed looks great it’s time to help people find it. Here is a mix of different hashtags you can use.
- Descriptive – what’s in your photo
- Category – your industry/niche
- Expertise – your sweet spot in your niche
- Brands – popular brands in your niche for a chance to be featured
- Community – your community/micro-niche
- Location – where you are
Also, check out the top 100 hashtags from Websta to identify relevant keywords and discover popular accounts. Note that two-word hashtags are usually better targeted than one-word hashtags [e.g. #womensfashion]. Also, think about what words your audience would use to describe your products and services. These are all great hashtag starters.
Once you set your strategy, theme and hashtags, make sure to lock everything in place with an editorial calendar to schedule your content and make sure your goals become inevitable. Tools you can use right away are Iconosquare [analytics] and Later [scheduling and feed design].
Only share content that best reflects your brand and triggers emotions that make people feel part of your story. The anatomy of a successful Instagram post is beautiful imagery, compelling overlaying text, post descriptions, mentions, hashtags and emojis.
4. Insta Stories
Instagram Stories let you give your fans a behind-the-scenes look at how you run your business and what a down-to-earth moment in your life looks like.
Personal tips work really well, especially when you can indirectly tie them to your business in some way. Behind-the-scenes, how you structure your day, how you come up with ideas, your work space, all these give people a look into your life/business.
Here are some cool inspiring ideas:
Insta story example 1:
Insta story example 2:
Insta story example 3:
Insta story example 4:
Insta story example 5:
Insta story example 6:
You can use Canva to create the graphics for your Insta Stories [the Pinterest template works well]. When you’re done, save them on Google Drive or Dropbox and just upload them from there when you’re ready to share them on Instagram.
5. Build influencer relationships
Influencer marketing is all the rage these days, especially on Instagram. And for good reason! Micro-influencers with up to 50k followers have strong communities around their personal brands and can influence their audiences to follow, like and buy from other brands.
The easiest way to find a few influencers to amplify your message and grow your following is to do a simple hashtag search in your niche. You can also use influencer platforms like Phlanx to find the right match for your brand.
While there are many external factors that can determine the success of an influencer campaign [e.g. product, price, branding and authority), here are the top metrics to keep an eye on when evaluating the effectiveness of an influencer campaign:
- audience sentiment
- product sales
Check out this calculator to get a rough estimate on what you should expect to pay an influencer for ‘lending’ you their audience.
6. Perfect Instagram post checklist
Ultimately, use this checklist for every Instagram post to make sure each one is making the maximum impact:
- Image – do you have a great image that is sharp, well-composed and styled nicely?
- Location – are you tagging your location (even if it’s just your business location), event or geographic area? This can boost your engagement dramatically!
- Caption – Grab attention within the first 150 characters and ask questions to trigger engagement.
- Call-to-action – Inspire people to click your link, tag a friend and repost your content. Since you only get one clickable link per account, use a service like LinkTree to maximize that to several links you can redirect fans to.
- Call for engagement – here are a few ways to do it:
- Two choices questions: “Would you rather this/that?”
- Put out a letter or number: “Which is your favorite, A, B, or C?”
- Use an emoji: “Comment with a X if you found this helpful”
- Ask a Yes or No question: “Are you clear on your New Year goals?”
- One word: “What one word would you use to describe…?”
- Scale of 1-10 (“On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you with…?”
- Tag a friend: “Tag someone who needs to see this right now.”
- Hashtags – Make sure you use all 30 hashtags in your first comment to attract new fans.
- Engage – Respond genuinely to all comments to encourage people to engage with you in the future.
Instagram is becoming a very powerful platform with engagement rates higher than any other platform. If you’ve been wondering if you should build a presence there as well, the answer is Yes and the time is Now. It’s a great medium to share your authentic brand message and leverage a hyper engaged community!
We’d love to hear from you and see how you’re using Instagram to grow your personal brand or business, and which new features you like best. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Guest Author: Sarah Williams is a Berlin based entrepreneur and lifestyle blogger. On her blog Wingman Magazine she helps people to discover their true potential, have better relationships, boost careers and feel great in their own skin.