There are currently 1 billion active users on Instagram, with an estimated 500 million of those individuals accessing the platform each day. The photo and video sharing social network continue to rise in popularity – ask everyone and their furry four-legged pals that have an account and share content daily.

So, why should your business use Instagram for marketing?

Unlike other social networks, where a bulk of users aren’t following or actively engaged with a brand, Instagram provides valuable visibility. 62% of users follow brands, and 70% revealing they actively search for particular brands on Instagram.

However, successfully leveraging Instagram for your brand requires more than just an occasional post or beautiful photo. What you need is a strategic, well-thought-out marketing plan that has a clear vision, distinct brand voice, and identity. Further, you’ll need a strong knowledge of your intended audience, visual creativity, and consistency.

The goal for your brand is not only to reach your target demographic but to drive authentic social value and engage users. According to the Pew Research Center, 64% of the platform’s users are between the ages of 18-29-year-olds, and 40% fall into the 30-49-year-old range. These demographics are a highly valuable and influential segment of the marketplace. And with statistics like these, it’s hard to ignore the opportunity to foster brand loyalty and connect with prospective customers.

How can your company leverage such a robust network to drive revenue, build brand equity, and establish an impactful presence? Here’s everything you need to know to set yourself up for success.

Develop Your Marketing Strategy

An effective strategy begins with clearly defining your goals. Common Instagram goals are:

  • create brand loyalty
  • raise brand awareness
  • promote company culture and values
  • build your community of followers
  • drive sales leads
  • generate buzz around a new service offering or product launch

You need to establish a framework for what you intend to accomplish. There are two things you’ll want to take into consideration;

1) The amount of time and money you plan to allocate towards this initiative

2) How to create content that is distinct and unique, but still embodies your brand’s voice.

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Research & Understand Your Target Audience

Rather than attempting to target the entire universe, you need to focus your efforts on a specific audience. To generate business and reach potential clients efficiently and effectively requires targeting your brand’s message and marketing dollars on the type of individuals that are likely to use your services or purchase your products.

If you’re scratching your head wondering where to begin, first analyze your current customer base. Explore the common thread of interests and characteristics of those already invested in your brand. Once you’ve defined these areas, summon your inner Sherlock Holmes and begin researching your competition. Look into the type of content your competition is creating. You also want to evaluate what posts are driving the most engagement, and the kinds of individuals they’re attracting.

The voice of your brand needs to communicate with your customer in a way that resonates with their personalities. For example, a Millennial audience will appreciate pop culture references and slang. Potential clients who fall into the Baby Boomer category will be looking for content that’s more direct and professional – perhaps even speaking to their nostalgia.

You should also consider the pain points of your audience. What problems does your company solve? What benefits will your customers realize from using your products or services? After you have a clear understanding of what benefits your company offers, you can develop original content that highlights your value.

Storytelling Through Content Themes

Building contagious and addicting content requires storytelling. Your theme can be anything relevant to your brand – a product line, mission, color, topic of conversation, animation – there are endless possibilities. The key is to integrate this theme into the visual elements of your content.

Whether you publish portraits, quotes, photos, or videos, stick to a theme. Sticking with a theme will help you weave your brand’s story into content that’s consistent with your voice and piques the interests of your target audience. Take advantage of Instagram’s analytics tool to evaluate each of your posts and make data-driven decisions about what your audience finds the most appealing. Knowing what your audience wants will give you the tools you need to construct impactful content and develop subsequent themes moving forward.

Devise a Posting Calendar

You’d be surprised how many companies post on a whim. By building a social calendar, you’ll harness the power of consistency. Strategically scheduling your posts ensures you’re putting out a broad mix of content throughout each week and month. Taking engagement into account, you should divvy up your images, videos, animations, and other graphics. By showing different types of content, you expose your audience to a range of media during a particular time frame. Consider trying various applications, like Hyperlapse or Boomerang, to keep your posts unique and fresh.

Consistency is Key

Have you ever checked out a company’s Twitter page and found yourself staring at a ‘Happy New Year’ post on the Fourth of July? Outdated or inconsistent posting makes customers and potential clients wonder if your business is legitimate. Even worse, old posts will have potential customers asking if you place any value in your brand’s image with the general public.

Posting consistency is key when it comes to winning the Instagram game. According to Hubspot, “On average, the best time to post on Instagram is between 2 PM and 3 PM CDT. However, the level of engagement you get can change dramatically depending on what day of the week you post. The best day to post on Instagram is Thursday, not just at 3 PM, but at 5 AM, 11 AM, and 4 PM as well.”

instagram content calendar

Put User Generated Content (UGC) on Display

A highly effective way to connect with your target audience is to showcase their videos and images in a way that accentuates your brand’s message and values. Using your followers’ media will increase your engagement too. The goal is to nurture your customer relationships and turn these individuals into advocates for your brand. By leveraging user-generated content, you can conserve marketing dollars and allocate funds towards other campaigns while simultaneously extending your brand visibility through your customers.

Consumers invest more in brands that share their content and use two-way communication to engage with their audience. Implementing this strategy is quite simple.

Launch a campaign that invites your followers to submit their content (use a unique hashtag to build awareness) or create a contest that encourages users to participate. Don’t forget to use geo-tagging – a.k.a. location tagging – to connect with users for events, conferences, etc.

Maintain One Unified Brand Message

Your social media accounts, company website, digital marketing efforts, and printed materials should all showcase a consistent brand message. To stay consistent requires your content, styling, images, and copy to carry one, consistent voice across all mediums.

If you want to differentiate yourself from your competition, then your brand messaging should be clear, purpose-driven, and unwavering in all of your advertising and communication.

When the colors, language, and photos you use are inconsistent, your audience won’t be able to establish an authentic connection with your brand.

#EmbraceHashtags

Just as you conducted audience and market research, you’ll want to do a little exploration around what hashtags best align with your brand.

Custom hashtags are valuable for contests or specific campaigns; the bulk of the hashtags you want to use are ones that are commonly used by your target audience. Tags like #photooftheday or #motivation, for example, are among the most popularly used phrases and will ensure your brand is maximizing its reach.

The strategic use of hashtags can help drive revenue and fuel engagement. Don’t just throw hashtags around carelessly for the sake of using them – this will only cause users to doubt and mistrust your brand. Instead, slap these bad boys onto content that is representative of the hashtags you’re using.

Craft an Optimal Bio

Your space is minimal when it comes to your Instagram bio, so use the area wisely.

Let your brand take the stage in a meaningful and effective way. The bio is a place to put your message on display, educate potential customers, and providing a link for users to visit your website.

You get one link in your bio so you’ll want to drive users to a page that adequately reflects your campaign or business goals.

Whether your goal is to drive traffic to your homepage or highlight a new product, the link you use should connect users with content you seek to promote.

Putting It All Together

When it comes to your brand’s Instagram account, don’t be afraid to get creative, try new things, and think outside the box. When you experiment with new ideas and measure your success via analytics, you’ll be able to hone your strategy to target your ideal customer profiles.

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