As the eighth most popular social media channel in the world, Instagram has been instrumental in helping brands reach their target market.
As with 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:
1. Start with a goal and metric
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?
Get specific on your goals. For example, don’t just say that you want more clicks to your website as a result of Instagram marketing. Instead, quantify that goal with a percentage increase in the click-through rate (CTR) you’d like to see.
2. Create instagram personas
Once you’ve established your Instagram goal and key metrics, take the time to create personas (models of your potential customers). This will act as a guide when you 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 their products. This step really helped when it was time to develop creative assets.
3. Ensure photos look 100% professional
If you want to present a positive image of your brand online, professional photography is a must. Yes, it’s an expense in time (if you DIY) or money (if you hire a photographer), but keep in mind that you’re prominently displaying your brand on a network that reaches 800 million monthly active users.
If you present a good image to even a fraction of those people, that’s great news for your reputation. On the other hand, if your photos look 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, fitness or beauty industry. Capture professional images of your products 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, a free graphic-design tool website. 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 create great captions that speak volumes about your products to your audience.
4. Show your human side
Let others know 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. 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 consumers appreciate Instagram because it allows them to see the personal side of figureheads and brands. Make sure you appeal to this need.
5. Use #hashtags
When it comes to social media marketing, hashtags can be your best friends. That’s why you should post photos and videos with hashtags. It’s often the case that you’ll pick up a few extra followers from people who browse and follow specific hashtags — and those people can turn into lifelong brand advocates and 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 reach 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.
6. Don’t overshare
Consider this 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, schedule the frequency and timing of posts. Fortunately, there are plenty of automated scheduling tools to help you automate the publishing process like HootSuite and Buffer.
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.
7. Keep captions short
When you post on Instagram, you’ll almost always need some sort of caption. But you’ll want to keep your captions short. “If you want to maximize engagement on your Instagram posts, stick to 138-150 characters in your captions. While the star of your posts will be the photos and videos, captions provide context and can compel people to engage with you. So you want to do everything you can to make your captions as great as possible.”
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.
8. 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, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation.