This post is inspired by a friend of mine who has a product-based business and loves Instagram, but has no idea how to generate more customers through the app. If, like her, you have a tangible (physical) product that’s marketable but have NO idea how to generate an audience, f*ckwithmeyouknowIgotit.
I’ll show you why Instagram marketing can help you grow business, and how to create a social media strategy for Instagram with your own personal IG account.
Why Use Instagram for Business?
Summed up, Instagram is great for business because it’s:
1. Fun and easy to use – Uploading content literally takes seconds.
2. Viral mobile platform – Pictures can be shared to Twitter or Facebook, increasing your social media reach at the push of a button.
3. Visual branding + content marketing made simple – Sharing your story through Instagram is easier once you understand the strategy behind creative development – and rock it the way Fortune 500 companies do.
Instagram is a mobile social media network that’s fun and easy to use. You upload pictures, or 15 second videos of yourself and/or things of interest to share with your community of followers. If someone likes what they see, they’ll “like” your picture (kind of like on Facebook). The more likes you get, the more viral your post becomes. The most popular pictures make it to Instagram’s “popular” page.
As a business owner, your goal is to use Instagram to “tell your brand story” through videos and/or photos. If your products are visually appealing, you can peddle your wares on the site naturally and fluidly. And because Instagram is a social media app made for mobile platforms, you’ll be taking advantage of mobile marketing, which gets all the hype these days.
Last but not least, Instagram is about content – and content is the best form of marketing. Why spend thousands of dollars on PPC and TV commercials when you can develop a branded account for your business and attract people who give you permission to interact with them?
Instagram Best For Product + Lifestyle Brands
Because Instagram is a visually-oriented community, it’s my belief the platform is best for product-based brands. Posting photos and videos of your tangible goods can generate engagement from both current and prospective customers interested in your products.
Lifestyle branding reflects or projects specific ideologies and aspirations of or towards a specific target market. If you hold certain attitudes or beliefs and aren’t afraid to express how you feel – no matter how “unpopular” your thoughts may be, and people hang on to your words, chances are you’re already executing lifestyle branding to some extent. The Likeable Assholes is a retail brand marketed through brand channels such as The Killer Truth and Matty J.
Lifestyle branding through Instagram can serve to develop a core target audience for you as well, as attachments and relationships are built on a foundation of shared beliefs, values and attitudes. When people mesh with your thoughts and ideas, then interacting with your brand increases their likeliness to support you, and (best case scenario) support your brand via money spent and word of mouth.
Examples of products and businesses doing great on Instagram include:
- Culinary Services (food)
- Real Estate
Again, I’m partial to retail brands using Instagram for content marketing, but celebrities, personal brands and services have successfully used the medium to market also. There are so many examples out there, especially of Fortune 500 companies, but I’ll pull two that personally excite and interest me.
Specific Examples of Successful Instagram Marketing
Tieks manufactures gorgeous Italian leather flats. They integrate a media-rich Instagram strategy that mixes product placement, celebrity endorsement, social proof, social awareness and lifestyle integration. You’ll find pictures of Oprah chilling in her Tieks at the office, actresses like Hailee Steinfield pictured wearing them on set, and Tieks employees posing in patent red tieks for Heart Health or ballerina pink for Breast Cancer awareness.
Tieks are positioned as casual luxuries of daily life, to be worn while at work or walking the dog. Yet there are also posts which position Tieks shoes as sophisticated enough for those special moments such as your best friend’s wedding day or even Valentine’s Day. Check out the official Tieks Instagram here.
Chaud’s Juice Therapy
Chaud is a self-proclaimed “juice enthusiast and future juice bar owner.” Motivated to help a relative diagnosed with cancer, Chaud’s love of juice therapy to heal and pave a path to wellness has helped her cultivate a following of over 69,000 on Instagram.
One of the reasons Chaud’s brand is so highly engaged has to do with the richness of her content. Chaud doesn’t just post pictures of her juices. She shares small videos that tell followers about her day, asks them questions and provides real-time responses to questions regarding juice blends, selecting the right juicer, and the age old question of “What if I can’t afford organic kale? Can regular kale work be just as effective?”
Content is king with social media marketing, but intelligent, entertaining content owns all. Here’s a photo of Chaud’s Citrus Mojito, with a caption that discusses the health benefits of her drink. When putting together ideas for your business content, what can you share with your followers that can expand their knowledge?
And you know, I guess it does help that she is a naturally gorgeous woman also. Why lie? Check out more of Chaud’s Juice Therapy:
Now let’s discuss creating an Instagram marketing strategy for your business.
Instagram Marketing Strategy in 10 steps
You can jump into Instagram marketing, but for why? Strategy is the secret to successful marketing campaigns. Once you get the hang of developing and executing a strategy, you’ll find it a valuable part of the overall marketing process.
I’ve had clients come to me for a strategy. Customized social media marketing strategies are intense; they can easily cost over $2,000 excluding creative design. If you included creative design, implementation and monitoring, you’re easily looking at over $10k in expenses. It takes money to make money, but if your funds are limited, spending $10k for a strategy isn’t necessary as long as you’re willing to light a few candles, crack open a bottle of Pinot Grigio and do the bulk of the work – namely planning and implementation – yourself.
1. Research brand/celebrity/business instagram accounts you love.
Preferably, you want to include at least one brand that’s similar to yours or operating within the same industry. If you don’t have one, or can’t find one, it’s cool.
Work through each account, one by one, taking notes on the brand practices and behaviors. How are these brands engaging their followers? Do they interact and share tips that improve their followers’ knowledge of a certain subject? (Think Chaud’s generously shared information regarding the health benefits of juicing.) Do they demonstrate how their products fit into a certain lifestyle their followers aspire to live? (Like Tieks’ and their whimsically charmed yet casual everyday life?)
Decipher their activity and techniques, because there’s a template to their marketing. When you can identify their template, write it down and store it for reference.
2. Curate lifestyle affirmations and statements from brand heroes + heroines.
Your products alone shouldn’t be the sole connection to your customers on social media. Nobody responds Instagram accounts from companies who only pictures of things they’d like you to buy on social media. Being social is about creating a connection. Ideally, you want to infuse some of your brand’s attitude in your marketing so it feels less like a pretty (annoying) pitch to buy your products and more like a two-way conversation with your customers.
What are some of your brand’s highest values? Who does your brand – and its audience look up to? Marilyn Monroe? Michelle Obama? Audrey Hepburn?
3. Gather some quotes from celebrities and figures of interest.
Commission graphics around these quotes. Prices for graphic designs vary from one designer to the next. I can’t tell you the minimum you should pay, but a good graphic designer will make your images completely original in look and feel while sticking to your brand. And if they’re familiar with Instagram, they’ll understand your photos should be optimized and designed in square format for best use on Instagram
4. Take professional pictures of your products.
Premium retailers use creative positioning in their content photography. They capture people using their products as part of specific events and scenarios to convince the audience that their product “fits” into their current (or their aspiring) lifestyle. Can you do the same with your products?
Tieks commissions themed photo shoots for their products to demonstrate how seamlessly their shoes fit into someone’s current or aspiring lifestyle. The product is then enhanced by fantasies that help the customer see how Tieks can enhance even the most mundane moments in life, such as reading a new issue of Vogue in bed or sipping lemonade from a Mason jar on the porch at sunset.
Make it easy for the customer to see how your product fits into their life by emulating this idea. Show them how your products enhance their lives in a creative, brand-compatible way and warm them up for the purchase.
4. Leverage social proof – especially celebrity proof.
Inspire your customers to submit pictures of themselves using your products or giving reviews of them. Brands use companies like BzzAgent and Influenster to build community buzz that spreads on sites like Instagram. Repost pictures of fans, followers and customers using your products. Create video slideshows of customers raving about your products. Customers will buy positive feedback from other customers much more easily than they will from you. Don’t forget to tag customers. And anytime a celebrity uses your product get a picture on Instagram immediately.
Likeable Assholes uses their Killer Truth instagram to post pictures of followers and customers wearing their clothing going to school, after work, before the club, after the club… you get the picture.
5. Stick to an official brand account.
Babies, family pictures, snapshots of your socks and your lunchtime Chipotle aren’t exactly relevant to your audience. Unless you’re a celebrity or independent figure branding yourself as part of the product, you need to create a specific Instagram profile for your marketing efforts and keep your posts consistent. Occasionally sharing something other than your products or brand values is okay; it shows people there’s an actual human operating behind the account. But if you go overboard and share too many pictures that aren’t part of your branding strategy, you’ll confuse your audience and lose their interest. Keep your Instagram profile’s branded content level at a minimum of 80% or higher – unless you are Kim Kardashian and pictures of anything are relevant to the audience.
6. Use hashtags, contests and questions to engage + track activity.
Post photos and videos offering exclusive discounts to customers and measure the effectiveness of engagement based on the number of purchases made. Use hashtags so people can find you easily. Create hashtags for use in your brand posts. Ask provocative questions or make bold statements reflective of your brand values and beliefs to strike conversation and make customers talk back to you. I’m not a fan of negativity, but I’ve also learned even if someone has something negative to say, it still works in your favor – because you’re striking emotional chords with people, and therefore you’re making progress. I don’t promote negativity, however, in some cases a negative response demonstrates you have more influence than no response at all. 😉
7. Post at least 4 times per week.
Yes, that means at least every other day. If you have a gaggle of images in your arsenal, or commission at least 20 a month, then combined with customer-submitted pictures and testimonials, this won’t be hard for you to do at all. In fact, I’d bet it’d be harder NOT to post any more frequently than that. You don’t have to post at a specific time, because someone’s always up and always using Instagram, but if you do notice better engagement at certain times or days, take advantage of this knowledge and work with this in mind. And this is nothing you cannot outsource to an intern or social media manager.
8. Distribute across other channels.
Take the photos and videos you post on Instagram and share them on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. Make sure your videos go on YouTube. Get a photostream of Instagram activity installed on your official site. Seems repetitive, but not every customer is on every one of your channels. Doing this maximizes the effectiveness of your creative marketing activities and increases exposure.
These are some basic steps to help you create a social media strategy for Instagram. The rest is up to you – but feel free to experiment and innovate with the information I’ve provided – and if this helped you in any way, spread the love and share this for me so I can help others understand Instagram as a marketing strategy.