Is Instagram marketing still valuable for brands?

A rift has been brewing among the sea of social media experts, bloggers and marketers alike all debating the relevance of Instagram for brands.

The initial popularity and use of Instagram baffled many traditional marketers, as the early adopters – the millennials – flooded the app and boosted its remarkable growth. Some sceptics initially criticised Instagram, claiming the platform was only lucrative for food, fashion and generally more visual brands, and since the new algorithm update others have said Instagram could potentially be damaging for a brand. On the other hand there’s dozens of case studies highlighting the great uses of Instagram and how brands have profited.

Confused much? Well I’m here to tell you the latter: Instagram is still relevant and houses massive potential to build your brand image, understand and interact with your audience and gain new business. I mean, If Instagram isn’t in your belt of marketing tools, do you even SMM? You’d be foolish not to utilise such a behemoth in the social media game; but there is a right way, and a wrong way to go about this and if you’re planning on using Instagram for business there are a few things you should bear in mind.

Ok so marketing caps on; let’s dig a little deeper into the topic and cover some key pointers all Instagram Marketers should know, and if you are already a wiz at this, hopefully this will serve as refresher or you might even learn something new.

Audience

The foundation of any strategy is the target audience. Rather than blindly shoot and cross your fingers for results, it is important to understand your audience, assessing your current followers, the target market you are attempting to attract and the scope of your reach. Understanding your audience on Instagram is a continuous process and you will effectively learn more as you go along. Essential information you need to research to get you started include:

  • Demographics - Age, Location, Gender (Instagram’s analytics tool is great for this)
  • Psychographics - General interests, Attitudes, Hobbies, Lifestyles
  • Behaviours – Active times, Accounts they follow, Photos they like

It may initially take a while to evaluate all of this information, however by doing so you can effectively create personas for your audience, share content they want to see and schedule your posts at times they will be most active, gearing towards a more effective Instagram campaign.

Content

The type of content you choose to produce will heavily be linked with your audience. If you’re trying to sell ice to an Eskimo, a time-lapse of a dusky sunset in the Sahara may not get the best engagement. On the other hand a post about student nightlife by a university account will likely draw in tons of impressions. Figuring out the best content to post is a learning curve, spend some time on the explore and following tabs on Instagram to see what exactly your followers are interested in. Targeted content is the key to great engagement, and great engagement will eventually grab you a feature on the explore tab, massively multiplying your potential reach.

Some general advice I’d suggest:

  • Black and blue or white and gold? Current topics are always popular but you have to be quick as they’re as equally time sensitive.
  • Viral trends can work wonders if executed properly, a cheeky mannequin challenge may just send you into the viral orbits of Instagram.
  • Captions are just as important as posts and will help provide context to your uploads.
  • You don’t always have to explicitly promote your business, sharing beautiful content is just as effective.

Remember it’s not always about what you want to post, it’s about what your followers want to see!

Branding

Instagram is a great way to grow your brand. The unique nature of Instagram being a photo/video sharing platform allows businesses to create an identity around their brands, bridging the gap between the business and its customers. Developing a personality will help humanise your brand and develop a trust with your followers.

Flooding Instagram with your logo is not the best way to go about this; instead find a niche to separate yourself from competitors and build around it, creating a unique persona and style. Aim to develop a brand identity that’s relatable to your audience, as this will naturally increase engagement. Instagram’s new feature stories is also great for this and many brands have taken advantage of the feature by posting “behind the scenes” content to give their audience a exclusive insight into their business.

Interaction

Often overlooked, interaction plays a significant role in Instagram marketing. Instagram is the gateway between you and your audience; however it is important to remember not to turn this into a customer service exercise. Yes, you can reply to comments here and there, but that’s so Twitter, there are better techniques on Instagram to be more interactive. For instance:

  • Unique hashtags – Hashtags that are unique to the brand, created for followers to use and engage with.
  • Follower features – Often used by fashion brands, encouraging followers to tag the brand in the post for a feature on the main account. Example @danielwellington the watch brand does this particularly well.
  • Giveaways and contest – Planning a product giveaway or a contest is a fantastic way to spread the message of your brand. One way to do this is to ask users to repost content for a chance to win a prize or a product giveaway, this will enormously boost the reach & engagement of your Instagram account.

Promote

Paid promotion on Instagram is not always cheap but can be extremely effective, especially if you’re just starting up and need to get the message out there quick. Instagram has a great system in place for you to conduct a paid advertisement campaign; it’s simple and straightforward even for those who’ve never explored this avenue before. Instagram will do the majority of the work for you, all you have to do is create your content, select your target audience and decide on your budget and let Instagram do the rest.

Influencer marketing is another incredible way to promote your business, and it’s particularly popular on Instagram. Influencers are users who have amassed a huge following on Instagram and other social networks effectively giving them large reach, they can be used to drive your brand message to audiences that would normally be difficult to tap into. They are key leaders within special niches, which will often times align with a business’s target market and for a fair exchange they will promote your business or product with a desired campaign.

While this guide is not a comprehensive list of do's and don't, hopefully you picked up some tips and key pointers to better your Instagram marketing.

Mike Bandar is founding partner at Hopper

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