Instagram Marketing – Easier said than done…
Amongst all the social media networks, Instagram is probably one of the most popular ones right now, at least in the western world. It has been around for more than 7 years, and after it’s acquisition by Facebook in 2012 for over 1 billion in cash and stocks, it has now also become part of Facebook’s ever-expanding advertising suite.
A lot has been written about how to grow and leverage that platform. And the amount of books, blogs, videos, and infographics is staggering. As somebody who has been working on accounts for clients for a while now, I have tried a variety of tactics and have to admit that 80% of what is out there is either incomplete, unrealistic or can be outright damaging to the brand that wants to use Instagram for business purposes.
The first part of this post is about the type of unethical, shady and useless tricks that are commonplace today in the mainstream marketing world. The second part shows what I think are legitimate Instagram marketing tactics people can use to create real results over time.
The Don’ts of Instagram Marketing
The scourge of every social media network. People using bots and automation don’t realize the most important part of social media, the relationships you build with your followers! Bots take all the humanity out of your account. Also, unless we invent AI that is good enough to use things like sound judgement for liking, commenting and following people, an automated script will inevitably fall short when it comes to targeting the right people. Spammy and unengaged followers are usual result.
Follow for Follow
Or how to build a following that is worthless. Follow for follow defines the practice of following a ton of accounts (often via bots) to max out the possible number of actions that Instagram allows each day (roughly 300-500 follows), in the hope that a percentage of these accounts will follow you back out of feelings of reciprocation. Afterwards, you can unfollow the ones that you followed before to start the cycle anew.
The problem with that strategy is that anybody who knows Instagram and sees that an account is for example following 1000 people while having 1100 followers at the same time immediately sees through that scheme. Followings build that way might look impressive but are also utterly useless in terms of traffic, engagement and sales generated. The people most of the time just followed you to have more followers themselves, they don’t really like or even love your brand. What a waste and so many people are doing it nowadays. It really is ruining the platform.
Everybody has gotten silly emojis, or comments like “nice”, “great pic”, “keep up the good work” and so on. Those general comments are worthless. They reak of automation and that the person posting these doesn’t really care about you, your business, your account or what the pictures depict. We censor these comments on all our accounts. We love real comments and answer those happily, may they be good, bad or neutral, it doesn’t matter.
I won’t dwell on this one. Buying fake followers just to beef up your numbers might be a great thing for celebrities, but if you want to sell services or products via Instagram or at least use it as a powerful branding tool, you should stay miles away from anybody who offers your “real followers” for cheap!
Fake Influencers and Promo-Accounts
Everybody wants to be an influencer these days. Especially millennials and members of Generation Z see it as an easy career, even though the reality of building an audience is quite different from what people imagine. Blogging, vlogging or running successful social media accounts can be very rewarding but it is hard work and requires time and money nonetheless. So a lot of these fake influencers rely on bots, follow for follow, buying likes and generalistic comments to fake their way to the top, just to fool naive business owners into buying advertising or sponsored content on their platforms which they then over time (maybe) can turn into a somewhat real following. There goes your influencer budget…
Promo-Accounts, on the other hand, are those general accounts who just re-post other people’s pictures with a ton of hashtags to build up a big page quickly, only then to sell the page eventually off to shady marketers who can convert it into something else entirely. Don’t work with them, don’t buy promo postings there, no matter how cheap. They are useless and will bring you nothing else but 10-20 new followers for several hundred dollars a pop, at best.
The Dos of Instagram Marketing
Post quality pictures
Invest in your pictures. Be it art, editorials, product photography, 3d designs etc. Even when you are trying to build a mood by just re-posting pictures, make sure they fit your brand and that the captions are interesting, useful and unique. If you can’t produce high-quality pics, at least repurpose ones in the public domain (without violating other people’s rights) or document your internal process in a visual form (like a diary) as best as you can. Don’t be afraid to hire a graphic designer to add captions, quotes, filters and so on.
Don’t be afraid of video
Use Instagram Stories to your advantage. If you already have a Youtube channel or Snapchat account, this should be easy, just repurpose your footage. Otherwise, learn to leverage these short clips and use it to showcase behind-the-scenes stuff or flesh out the human side of your brand.
Post frequently and regularly
The rule of thumb here is to post at least once every day. Optimal is 3x times a day, no more than that though. Make sure to space your posts out to not appear spammy. The best time to post depends on your timezone, the target market, demographic and if you are a b2c, b2b or hybrid business. Experimentation can be helpful in figuring out your perfect schedule.
Use the right hashtags
Instagram allows you to post 15-30 hashtags in your captions or as a comment under the post. Make sure you have the right ones, research your target audience and think from a consumer-centric perspective, not a topical one. Example: Furniture buyers might look for #dinnertable or #designertable not necessarily for #furnitureshop or #furniturestore. Be as specific as possible with each post, but also make sure that the hashtags are popular enough to have enough volume behind them to drive views to your posts.
Leave genuine comments and engage
Try to set a daily goal with your account manager to leave a number of genuine comments on profiles that could be your potential fans/customers. The comments should be specific, add value and not promote your own business or agenda directly. Just spread some good vibes. People will appreciate the effort and in this way, they might discover your account, your business and potentially down the line start to even follow you or buy goods from you.
Consistency and real outreach is the key here. Same goes for genuine comments on your pics. Answer the comments, even if you are a luxury brand, if this is a potential customer, make sure to respond if possible. Don’t just rely on a top-down communication model, the followers of today can be the wealthy elite of tomorrow.
If you want to learn more about your following, just ask them. Every third or fourth post, ask for an opinion or hold a mini-survey. People love to answer questions online. As a luxury brand, use this technique carefully. You have to project confidence in your brand when you do this.
Use Facebook Ads to promote your account
Facebook lets you target specific people who could be interested in your account by selecting Instagram placements and building a persona based on Facebook interests. Use the best performing posts on your account (identify them via Instagram’s built-in analytics feature) and then promote them via ads on Instagram. You will get a lot of likes and if your targeting is laser accurate, you will also get a number of new followers this way. You can also narrow down your targeting and reduce your cost per like or follow by showing these posts to your Facebook retargeting audiences that you have already built on your homepage via the Facebook pixel.
Work with real influencers
Identify influencers that match your audience. Their tone of voice, their content and their style should match yours. Don’t work with somebody just because they are famous or have a large following. Chasing reach can backfire (bad examples would be how luxury brands have cooperated with some of the KOLs in China in the last couple years). Make sure the following of the influencer is engaged and real. You can do this by just following the account for a while and looking at the type of comments and likes they are getting.
If the account follower-base consists mostly of empty profiles or people from Bangladesh and India, stay away (unless you are selling products in these markets of course – no offence). When you make a deal with the influencer make sure it is a win-win, and leave some creative freedom to the content creator for crying out loud. Don’t put them in a contractual straight jacket. Also, use UTM parameters and analytics tools that do link tracking to measure the real results of the campaign (in terms of traffic, likes, follows, sales).
Use Direct Messaging
Send out a certain number of DMs to potential customers a day. Offer something of value, a special sale, a piece of interesting content, industry insight or just genuine interest. Do it on a consistent basis but don’t become spammy. Start real conversations and move it to chat, email or phone if you can (especially if you are selling high-ticket items or b2b products).
Use Giveaways and Contents
Careful with this one if you are a premium or luxury brand. A business that spams special sales, contests and giveaways quickly can be seen as cheap. Don’t buy into marketing partners that want to sell you this tactic if you if you want to promote a high-end product. You need to protect your brand value after all. Use this with caution, and in case of luxury, stay away completely just to be sure.
Create unique hashtags – connect on & offline efforts
If your PR or marketing department is planning a huge event, fashion show or keynote, create a unique hashtag for it. Use event bait like a photo-op wall, a piece of art or anything similar to make people post Instagram pics with your hashtag at or after the event. You would be surprised how powerful this technique can be in giving your account a temporary spike in reach.
Instagram is a powerful branding tool. Done correctly it can also lead to more sales, engaged customers, and additional traffic to your site. But don’t give into the dark side and start using the shady techniques described in the beginning. Invest time, money and real effort into your account, use your resources wisely and the results will come in time. If you need somebody to help you with your account or you would prefer to outsource this difficult and time-consuming work entirely, feel free to click the button in the sidebar and book a free call with us. At High End Consultancy we only use the ethical techniques described above. Our priority is the growth of your business, not fake likes and pretty numbers. Have fun Instagramming!