With more than a billion active users, Instagram is a popular visual marketing platform in today's social media landscape. Digital marketers must be able to master Instagram marketing to connect with Millennials, Gen Z, and Boomers alike, tell their brands' visual stories, and stake out a presence on visual media. Mastering how to connect with users on social media is often a challenging endeavor, as social media apps are constantly shifting their algorithms and features.
Here's an in-depth guide on how to navigate today's unique social media landscape and market your business on Instagram.
How to market on Instagram
Marketing on Instagram requires a basic understanding of how the platform operates. You probably know the basics. If you are unfamiliar, here's the gist: Users take and share photographs or videos along with a caption, in turn, their community of followers can interact with the post by liking it, leaving a comment, or re-gramming it themselves.
Understand the platform and algorithm
In the past, the Instagram feed was simple and chronological. What this meant is that when a user logged in, she had the opportunity to see every piece of shared content from the accounts that she followed. However, Instagram's current algorithm-driven approach has replaced the traditional oldest-to-newest newsfeed, prioritizing suggested content, original posts from content creators, and video content.
Essentially, Instagram has made it harder for your posts to reach your entire following. What this has done is make it even more important to encourage your followers to like and comment on posts—so that your brand remains on the top of your audience feed. When people actively engage with your brand, it triggers a user experience signal within the algorithm that will keep your posts showing up in your audience's feeds.
The algorithm that ranks in-app uses four ranking signals: information about the post, information about the user who creates the post, the user's audience's activity, and the audience's history of interacting with the user. These signals determine the ranking order of posts in the newsfeed, posts featured in the Explore tab, and the ranking of Stories, Reels, and IGTV content.
Instagram's recent shift to embracing short-form video content followed TikTok's 2020 boom in viewership and user signups. In addition to video content shared on Stories, IGTV, and traditional posts, Reels provide another outlet for social video. Reels can be viewed in via user profiles, reshared on Instagram stories, discoverable on a user's explore page, and located in the dedicated Reels tab of the app. Brands looking for the highest level of exposure on Instagram should consider sharing diverse content — both Reels and static posts. Content made for YouTube or TikTok can also be revitalized to succeed on Reels.
Don't be afraid to experiment
With a wide variety of potential subjects, photographic choices, and different ways to connect with audiences, experimenting with your strategy on Instagram will help you connect most effectively with potential customers.
A successful marketing campaign on the app has five key elements:
It features original content that conveys something about your brand or product.
It takes advantage of unique visual positioning opportunities, such as filters and different technical configurations.
It encourages engagement – such as likes and comments – from your fans and followers.
There is a clear call to action that puts the image into a broader visual marketing campaign context.
Take the time to find examples of successful campaigns and accounts – especially those in your niche. By observing and analyzing what's working now, you will gather real-time and industry-relevant data on how specific businesses are making the most of their online audience.
Instagram is an inherently visual platform. Simply put, great content is going to stand out. This means focusing on lighting, product placement, and of course—filters. There are several tools that professionals use to create the perfect look. We recommend Priime, which has filters designed by real photographers to give your photo that professional finish.
Remember to use filters to make your photo as close to the real thing as possible, they are meant to help fix focus, saturation, exposure, contrast, and sharpness-- not to change the basis of the photo itself. Instagram started around the idea of authenticity, and no one likes an overly artificial photo.
Engage and share content consistently
This one may be obvious, but it requires the most effort: post consistently! There is a distinct correlation between how often a brand posts and the rate of return visitors. It often takes multiple returns to turn a prospective customer into a customer. Pay attention to the best times to post, and don't forget to allocate time to 'Comment' and 'Like' your fans' posts and monitor the conversation around your brand.
When customers see your brand engage with real people, it helps to validate your social presence and humanize your brand. Opening a two-way dialogue is a guaranteed way to build long-lasting relationships with your customers. This is where user-generated content (UGC) can be especially useful to your Instagram strategy; repost the experiences of real customers in your brand community, and more users will be inclined to try your brand. People trust other people like them, and social users are often excited to be featured on their favorite brands' profiles.
Automatically collect, curate, and reshare UGC from Instagram to your brand's most valuable touchpoints with Pixlee TurnTo [now Emplifi]. Not only will your team have ample access to high-quality content to fill your posting calendar, but this content will likely resonate well with followers.
Measure post analytics
To truly understand on the 'gram, it's critical that you create smart feedback loops. Don't just post content and hope it performs well – use an Instagram analytics tool to help you objectively measure how your content is performing. That data can help you craft a more deliberate and effective strategy. As with all social media platforms, the more data you have access to, the better prepared you'll be to deliver what your audience really wants.
Pixlee TurnTo provides a holistic look at Instagram analytics, including extra content that's not accessible within the app itself.
Embrace social commerce and shopping features
When visitors see something they love and click on a photo (both on Instagram and on a brand's website), it should bring them straight to the product page. Instagram has developed exceptionally robust shopping features; brands and creators can now make traditional posts shoppable, create collections of their favorite products, and even build their own "Instagram Shop" that supports in-app checkout. Other social apps like TikTok have introduced similar shopping features and continue to grow their capabilities due to success with in-app shopping.
In addition to uploading your eCommerce product catalog to the app, consider featuring shoppable IG content from your brand and community on your website. Since social content and UGC serve as social proof for your products, this can have a big impact on your bottom line. Marketing with Instagram photos your fan base creates is a smart way to engage your audience and get more traction out of your existing visual library.
Pixlee TurnTo enables brands to build customizable, shoppable website displays of Instagram content, including UGC, influencer content, and brand posts, to provide a socially driven product discovery experience for site visitors. These galleries can take the form of full displays on dedicated site pages or smaller carousels on product pages.
How influencer marketing can help
Only 4.7% of your customers generate 100% of your brand's word of mouth. Peer recommendations are playing a much larger role in purchasing decisions, and, consequently, influencer marketing is becoming a larger initiative for eCommerce brands. Influencers are social media users who have an established credibility and audience.
Consider partnering with influencers whose niche and interests align with your brand values. Once you find a content creator who is active in your industry, you can work with that individual to create content featuring your product or service, and have them share it with their audience. Ultimately, this can help drive awareness of your brand, products, and services – as well as lead to sales.
Another way to incorporate influencer marketing into your media mix is to focus on fans in your existing brand community who might make ideal brand ambassadors. Typically, smaller-scale, more focused creators tend to see higher engagement rates than larger celebrities on Instagram.
Using Pixlee TurnTo, brands can practice social listening and identify individuals with engaged audiences who may already be posting about their products. Then, brands can utilize the platform's influencer marketing features to develop campaigns and manage content with potential brand ambassadors.
Instagram marketing requires an understanding of the platform and a commitment to determining how best to connect with the app's audience. Spend time mastering the basics of storytelling on the platform, understanding your target audience, and thinking about the best visual way to position your brand. Building your next social campaign with a solid foundation will position you for success and help your visual campaigns gain real traction.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on pixlee.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.