Tiffany is a 28-year-old entrepreneur who grew up in the age of Facebook. For all her fluency with social media, she didn't even use Instagram before the launch of her new food brand, Simple Girl.
But when she and her partners were launching their Simple Girl brand of all-natural, sugar-free sauces and salad dressings she knew she needed to reach out to where her future customers were - Instagram.
So she literally got a quick tutorial from her 17-year-old younger brother on how to use their site and app, and then dived right in.
Her first posts at @SimpleGirlSite got very little notice and almost no interaction. But she kept at it, posting and following other people on Instagram, learning along the way. Within a few months she stumbled on a simple, yet very powerful formula for growing her Instagram presence and following.
What she did was to research the key hashtags that people who fit her target market were interested in. From there she uncovered who the top "influencers" were to these niches. Then she reached out to them by sending them a private message asking them if she could send them some Simple Girl samples, and if they loved the sauces and dressings, asking them to share the products with their followers.
One of the first people she reached out to was @fitalicious.life, who regularly shares healthy recipes and food options with her 150,000 followers -- @fitalicious.life's first post of the Simple Girl products garnered 1,388 likes. That's when Tiffany knew she was on to something.
Tiffany then repeated the process with other influencers in this and other niches including fitness, healthy eating, clean eating, and vegan eating. Another example of this was with @healthymomx3 in the "healthy eating" niche.
So what did all of this work produce for Simple Girl? In addition to their 13,000 followers (and growing), Simple Girl is now generating over 40 percent of their online sales from Instagram.
What's more, their success through Instagram has created a strong pull demand for their products through traditional grocery store chains, which is helping them get wider conventional distribution to sell their products.
Okay, so here are eight concrete tips for leveraging Instagram to promote your products.
8 Tips for Using Instagram to Promote Your Products
1. Research which hashtags people in your market are most likely to search for.
Use "hashtagify.me" or Instagram's search page to help you look.
For example, Tiffany found her top hashtags were #cleaneating and #lifting.
2. Create your "hot list" of the top 50-100 "influencers" in your chosen hash tag.
3. Narrow your list to those who would reflect well on you and who seem open to posting about products they believe in or enjoy.
Remember, it's not just about followers, but you also need to explore if them posting with your product would be a good or bad thing. Do you want to be associated, even indirectly, with them?
Review their posts to see if they ever show products (as some don't). If they do, see how many likes and comments their posts with products generate. Recognize that it's not just about sheer numbers, but that the engagement of their followers matters. It tells you if they have influence with these people which increases the impact any post they make with your product would have.
4. Widen your view and go down the rabbit hole to find other niches to explore for your products.
Having just suggested you to narrow your hot list down, now it's time to go explore for other niches you would have never thought about prior.
For example, Tiffany started her search with general fitness categories, and only later started to explore the dedicated women doing bikini competitions which lead them to include #npc and #bodybuilding in many of their posts.
This then led them to focus on women who lift so they started including #liftingladies and the more general #lifting.
My point is be willing to explore without knowing in advance where this deep dive will take you.
Remember, Tiffany never thought about bikini competitors and body builders as niche markets for her Simple Girl brand before she started going down the rabbit hole.
5. Don't be afraid to just ask.
Tiffany was sure no one would agree to post about her Simple Girl products, and she was blown away by how once someone tried her product they were excited to post about it.
The moral of the story is to just ask. What's the worst they can say?
6. Follow up in an organized way.
It can get confusing so put it on a spreadsheet and follow a methodical process of reaching out to 3 or 5 or 10 potential people a day, updating your spreadsheet so you know who you have followed up with, and who you need to follow up with later.
You can use this same spreadsheet to make sure you do more outreach to your brand champions when you have new products coming out.
7. If your brand champions ask about it, consider giving them a coupon code or affiliate link to use in their post.
8. Build relationships; think long term.
Thank them; follow up with them; reach out to them over time. Approach this as if you were looking to build a network of relationships that you planned to nurture over the long term.
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