How to Leverage Instagram Marketing for Your Business

How to Leverage Instagram Marketing for Your Business
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By John Lincoln

I have helped hundreds of businesses drive revenue from Instagram. As the eighth most popular social media channel in the world, Instagram has been instrumental in helping brands reach their target market.

As with so many other online ventures, though, there's a right way -- and a wrong way -- to promote your business on Instagram. If you violate unwritten rules concerning Instagram etiquette, you could do more harm than good. Here's how you can ensure that every post is perfect:

Start With a Goal and Personas

A solid Instagram campaign begins like many other aspects of business: with a goal. Why are you on Instagram? What do you hope to accomplish by promoting your business on an app that's popular with millennials?

Be sure to get specific on your goals as well: For example, don't just say that you want more clicks on your website as a result of Instagram marketing. Instead, quantify that goal with a percentage increase in clicks you'd like to see.

Once you've established your goal, make sure to take the time to create personas (models of your potential customers) to experiment with targeting the right audience. For example, when working with one of our larger clients, we created three ideal personas of people who might be interested in its products. That really helped when we dove into creative.

Make Sure Your Photos Look 100-Percent Professional

If you want to present a positive image of your brand online, you're probably going to have to fork over some cash for professional photography. Yes, it's an expense, but keep in mind that you're displaying yourself prominently on a network that reaches hundreds of millions of users. If you present a good image to even a fraction of that many people, that's going to be great news for your reputation. On the other hand, if your photo looks unprofessional, people will immediately get the impression that your business isn't to be taken seriously.

This advice is especially valuable if you're in the fashion industry (also fitness, beauty products, etc.), which is well-suited for Instagram marketing. Hire a professional photographer to capture images of your clothing and accessories in a way that will appeal to people in your target market.

If you don't have the money for professional photos, check out Canva. It's an inexpensive option that works well. With our smaller budget clients, we have seen success using this platform. However, you need to make sure you also have great captions that speak to volumes about your products to your audience.

Make Sure to Show Your Human Side

Let others know that there are actual people behind your brand with candid, humorous, and maybe even quirky posts of you and your employees from time to time. Avoid using Instagram solely as a space to promote products, however. You'll come across as a salesperson instead of someone who's contributing value to the community.

Based on our research, we have seen that many consumers appreciate Instagram because it allows them to see the personal side of figureheads and brands. Make sure you appeal to this.

Use Hashtags

When it comes to social media marketing, hashtags can be some of your best friends.

That's why you should post your photos and videos with hashtags. It's often the case that you'll pick up a few extra followers from people who were just browsing through posts tagged with a hashtag that you added -- and those people can turn into lifelong loyal customers.

There are a couple of rules to keep in mind about hashtags, though: For starters, only use hashtags relevant to your niche and your post. Otherwise, your content could be considered "spammy" and will not be hitting your demographic. Finally, use the most popular hashtags relevant to your brand. You might have to do some digging to find the tags that are used most frequently, but it's worth the effort.

For example, on my Instagram, I use the following hashtags: #business, #news, #entrepreneur, #marketing, #socialmedia, #data #tech and #technology. This results in my posts getting hundreds of likes. If I don't use these hashtags, the likes diminish substantially. If you're unclear about how to find the hottest tags, use the help of an app like Tags For Likes, or visit Tagboard.

Don't Burn Out Your Followers

Here's the scenario: You have 32 new items to add to your product line, and your photographer takes fabulous, high-quality photos of each of them. Now it's time to post all of those photos to Instagram, right? Wrong. If you post 32 photos at once, you're basically encouraging loyal fans to unfollow you.

Instead, space the timing of posting your photos out so your followers aren't swamped with multiple sales pitches at once. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you automate the publishing process: Take a look at HootSuite and Buffer as a starting point.

In one case, we tried increasing a client's posts from one per day, to five times daily. The result? We saw an increase in unfollows of 29 percent. The lesson here is not to overshare.

Keep Your Caption Short

When you post on Instagram, you'll almost always need some sort of caption.

But you'll want to keep your captions short. Remember, people are busy. So as a best practice, write two or fewer sentences as a caption, and fewer than 15 words in the post itself.

Start Posting Now

The perfect Instagram campaign requires a series of flawless Instagram posts. Fortunately, with the right know-how and a little bit of experience, you can be well on your way to capturing more leads by unlocking the power of Instagram marketing.

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility and author of "Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online."

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