Insider tips on Instagram marketing

Statistically, if you’re a woman under the age of 55, it’s highly likely you’re using Instagram on a daily basis.

You’re no doubt using it to scroll through holiday pics from your friends, to fall in love with custom pottery from your favourite local artisan, or to watch morning coffee dance routines compliments of Jonathan Van Ness (or is that just me?).

You’re probably also an Instagram content creator – posting the occasional Insta story on a long weekend away (#blessed), or sharing your Sunday baking triumph with all the filters and ironic hashtags (#marthastewart).

But when it comes to using the social platform for marketing, many of us are relative novices.

And while this may have been acceptable a few years ago, Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook, Inc.) is fast becoming one of the most popular social media sites for marketers.

So, it’s time to take it a little more seriously.

Instagram’s popularity continues to rise year on year, and as a marketing platform, it is now outperforming Facebook with a median engagement rate of 1.60 per cent per branded post as opposed to 0.09 per cent per Facebook post.

The ad spend on Instagram is now 23 per cent higher than on Facebook, according to an internal analysis by Merkle.

It is also the second most used social platform among marketers, with 83 per cent of social advertisers now using Instagram to promote their brands, just behind Facebook, which is used by nine per cent of social marketers as their key social platform.

The number of monthly active users on Instagram also recently grew to 1 billion, shy of Facebook’s 2.32 billion; with 72 per cent of teenagers using it and 35 per cent of adults.

This may be because the over 55s are the fastest growing audience segment on Facebook…and with Mums and Grandpas moving in, the Millennials (22-36 year olds) are moving out!

If you’re a marketer, Instagram is quite clearly the place to be, so if you want to know more about when to use it, and how to use it – beyond posting Insta snaps of your brunch #allthefood – here are a few of our tips for approaching the Millennial platform with Celeste Barber-esque panache.

Find the right audience

To figure out whether Instagram is right for your brand or business, start by figuring out who you’re trying to speak to.

Instagram is most popular with younger people and women, so if you’re looking to reach a 65 year old male CEO, it might not be worth your time or money. But, if you want to speak to an 18 year old fashionista or 38 year old working Mum, Instagram is a sure bet.

Having said that, it’s also really important to look at psychographics when thinking about audiences, not just demographics.

Jonathan Van Ness is a 30-something year old businessman who is interested in politics, but he also loves cats, ice-skating and women’s fa-shun henny!

So instead of typecasting, think about what your audience is interested in, what brands they align with, the things they love to do in their spare time and what they truly value. If you can understand what makes them tick, you can better plan your content to connect.

Create content they’ll love

The best way to plan and create branded content for social platforms, particularly Instagram, is to meet your audiences somewhere between what they want to see, and what you want to tell them.

If you work for a local council for instance and want to communicate with your constituents, try posting beautiful images of local parks, waterways, historical facts about homes in the area, or gardening tips for winter, then every now and then add in an announcement about an upcoming council event or survey.

By making your page interesting and entertaining for your audience you’ll attract more followers, and keep them engaged for when you need to get a more pointed message across.

A good motto to live by when planning branded content is to give, give, give, then ask; in other words, make sure you have three engaging posts for every one sales post. This way you’ll keep your audiences interested, and earn their trust.

It’s also important to make your content beautiful. The Instagram Feed is a visual platform – almost like an online lifestyle magazine that people have curated to their own tastes. If you want to engage with an Instagram audience, you need to think about the aesthetics of your Feed’s content, so people will want to see what you’re posting.

And don’t forget about Stories!

A recent study showed that Instagram Stories are now used by 500 million users every day, with one third of the most viewed Instagram Stories coming from brands or businesses – so they’re certainly worth doing (and worth doing well).

When it comes to Instagram Stories, the content strategy is a little different. If your Feed is a lifestyle magazine, then your Stories are the “behind the scenes” shots or bloopers.

Stories allow consumers a real insight into the story behind a brand, so don’t be afraid to have a bit of fun with them and showcase what is unique about your brand and the personalities behind it.

Follow, hashtag, connect (oh my!)

Once you’ve established who your audience is and the content you need to create to entertain and engage, it’s important to think about how you’re going to get that content in front of them.

Unlike Facebook, organic posting is still relatively beneficial for brands on Instagram (for now anyway), and there are a lot of ways you can connect to your audiences using organic strategies to “build your tribe”.

There are simple ways you can set up your page to ensure engagement grows, with the two most simple tactics being followers and hashtags.

Start your distribution strategy by following as many influencers in your field as possible, then follow your competitors’ followers. This is called piggyback following and it’s a great way to grow your audience.

You should also make sure you’re following pages that have the type of followers you’d like to have, and you can find these pages using hashtags.

While many of us mere mortals use hashtags ironically on our personal posts #nofilter, they’re actually a hugely helpful indexing system which Instagrammers use to allow users to search themes of interest using keywords.

For a hashtag to be recognised at the top of an Instagram search it needs to have been mentioned 50,000 to 400,000 times on posts, so the best way to market your content to your audiences is to use the same hashtags in the first comment on every piece of content you post.

Fun fact – the optimal number of hashtags you should put in your first post is (randomly) 11.

Make it authentic

While the platform has traditionally been a breeding ground for airbrushed influencers, the introduction of Stories has seen a sharp turn toward authenticity, and audiences are seeing through paid promotions from influencers who have no, or very little connection to a brand.

In a recent Forbes article on Instagram trends, they say that authenticity should be a key consideration when it comes to working with influencers in 2019.

“Before working with an influencer, take the time to truly research them and their social media presence, beyond follower numbers. Are they getting enough engagement on their posts? Does their audience actually care about these influencers and what they have to say? What other brands have they collaborated with in the past and what were the campaigns like? And last but not least, are they truly authentic?”

You can use tools like Social Bakers to research and identify Instagram influencers, or Tribe to connect with Influencers, but in our experience, the most successful campaigns result from a genuine connection between the brand and the influencer.

Tools and tricks

If you already have a solid understanding of how to use Instagram and why, here are a few extra tools and tricks that we’ve come across that might make your job even easier…

  • It’s all about the profile: it’s best practice to put your top keywords in your profile name if possible. If you sell apples and pears, make your profile name your brand name + apples and pears. Easy!
  • Quality over quantity: The “social-age” old question is how many times should you post. The answer we always give is as regularly as possible for your brand or business to produce and post good quality content. According to a recent study the biggest brands on Instagram post on average of 1.5 times per day, but if it’s not good content it’s not worth it.
  • Reuse, repost, recycle: reposting content from Influencers is a great way to drive engagement. You can use simple tools like Repost and InstaSave to download content from other people’s Feeds and share it as a repost on your own Feed. Just don’t forget to tag them in it and thank them for the #inspo!
  • The right link: Because Instagram Feed posts don’t link back to a website (like they do on Facebook) the usual way of driving traffic to a webpage is to encourage users to “click the link in bio”. This is all well and good when you’re driving traffic to the same URL every time, but if you have several URLs you want to send people to – a competition, a recipe, a specific product – linktree is a really helpful tool that allows you to use one link for all of your posts. For an example check out Donna Hay’s Instagram bio.
  • Get Highlighting: people love Instagram Stories but they disappear after 24 hours. To keep your favourite stories alive, and to provide additional content about your brand or business for newcomers, use the Stories Highlights feature to promote specific offerings, product lines, or messaging.
  • IGTV in your Feed: In 2018, Instagram launched IGTV, which is a separate app that allows brands and influencers to post vertical videos up to one hour long. This year IGTV integrated with the Instagram Feed to allow brands to post the first minute of their IGTV vertical videos to their Feed as a teaser, before transitioning to IGTV. This is perfect for brands that have a lot to say and high-quality longform video content to share.
  • When you want to ask, pay for it: when you do need to “ask” or sell, the best way to reach a broad group of people is to advertise. Since Instagram was bought by Facebook, brands and businesses have been able to use the Facebook Business Manager platform to create targeted ads for audiences on Instagram. These ads can be placed in the Feed and on Stories and are an excellent way to engage new audiences, drive traffic to your website, or run competitions to increase followers.
  • Hot off the press: according to Mashable, Instagram is currently working on a “collections feature” that will allow users to save their favourite Instagram posts, organise them into groups and share them publicly with others. This will make it easy for users to save interesting content to share with colleagues, clients, and followers at a later date.