While it might feel impossible to keep up with the seemingly never-ending supply of new social media platforms and features, there are some you can’t afford to ignore. Instagram is just behind Facebook as the most popular social networking app, with an audience predominantly made up of under 30s. Implementing an Instagram social media strategy can help your company appear relevant and fresh and put you in position to authentically engage your audience.
In an economy that’s all about brand storytelling, customer experience and inspiring loyalty, you can use Instagram to make a personal connection with your target market. To help you create posts that make an impact, here’s an in-depth guide on Instagram for business. Plus, there's an explanation of why Instagram marketing is so effective and why it’s important to plan your strategy in advance.
Why Should Your Business Use Instagram?
According to its parent company, Facebook, Instagram has more than one billion global users and 500 million daily users. With an advertising reach of 1.386 billion, the numbers are reason enough for businesses to post on Instagram. It’s not just a game of numbers, though. One of the reasons the social media website is so successful is that it’s image-driven. Our primary sense is our eyes, with vision taking up the largest portion of our brains. You can take advantage of Instagram so long as you understand the visual nature of the platform and have a good yarn to spin.
Keep in mind that it’s not about posting what you want to post. For your audience to discover your brand, you need to understand why they use Instagram and how they might interact with your business on the platform.
The Social Justice Movement
The trend towards corporate social justice is showing no signs of slowing. Content marketing is a highly effective method of telling the world about your company’s mission, message and vision for the future. By combining impactful images with powerful captions and relevant hashtags, you can use your Instagram feed as a call to arms.
Deloitte’s Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey demonstrates that people in these age brackets are staunchly interested in supporting causes they believe in. It also shows that these age groups think business should play a key role in driving social change. And, according to the data, they’re willing to do the talking with their spending habits.
Take Nike’s response to the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Wieden + Kennedy Portland devised a campaign that put a spin on the sports brand’s world-renowned slogan, turning it from “just do it” to “for once, don’t do it. Don’t pretend there’s not a problem in America. Don’t turn your back on racism.” By taking a stand publicly in the name of social justice, Nike cleverly established itself as being on the same side as its young target audience.
The public’s response was overwhelmingly positive, with audiences saying the ad was more empowering than 98% of other ads. And of course, people bought more shoes.
Influencer marketing might not be as righteous as message-driven marketing, but it can be just as effective. In a survey conducted by Slicktext, Instagram came out as the platform that the 16-24 age group thinks has the most genuine influencers. Humans are highly social and want to possess the same things as successful individuals they look up to. That’s why companies are queuing up to get influencers, celebrities and social media stars to endorse their brands.
Mint Mobile makes good use of influencer marketing, by employing its big-name owner Ryan Reynolds, as well as smaller social media influencers and podcasters. This plucky young brand shows that it’s not just the big phone companies that can make a storm in the world of social media marketing. In addition to its main campaign, it sponsors influencers on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Add in to the mix regular funny posts and tons of engagement with followers and social media, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
Creating Instagram posts that resonate with your audience shouldn’t be a guessing game. You’ve got to research content thoroughly, be on-brand, set a schedule, remain consistent and stand out among the millions of posters each day.
Creating an Instagram Social Media Strategy
There’s nothing less effective than a rushed ad campaign. You'll want to have a plan in place long before you start using your Instagram Business account. Strategizing down to the finest detail is essential, so let’s look at how to get started:
What do you want to achieve? You might want to directly promote and sell products or advertise a service. You can also share your portfolio, build brand awareness by sharing your message, utilize user-generated content or all of the above. No matter the reasons, make sure you define them in advance, so you can align your Instagram posts with your audiences’ desires.
Who’s your target audience? You’ll need to know exactly who you’re trying to reach before you think about posting on an Instagram account's business profile. Be consistent with the rest of your Instagram social media strategy, but explore competitors’ content, relevant hashtags and popular events to see what inspires engagement.When are you going to post? An editorial calendar or automated software that allows you to create a roster for posting in advance is a must. With social media, you should have your Instagram posts ready to go, so you can fire them out on a strict set schedule. Scrambling around for content at the last minute is a surefire way to deliver mediocre results.
Every time you post, ask yourself, is this on brand? Consistency is everything. Your posts should align seamlessly with your company’s values and personality, so people know what to expect and feel delighted when you meet their expectations. Remember that aesthetics are a top priority on this platform, and random images that seem disconnected won’t resonate.
Types of Instagram Posts
On Instagram, engagement is what drives success. The more people like, share and comment on your posts, the more your content will find its way into your target audience’s feed. There's a range of different types of posts, and you can deploy a mixture of them for the best results.
By far the most popular, images are what Instagram is famous for. Share a variety of photos and refrain from over-focusing on selling. People want your brand to be varied and relatable, and they don’t want to feel like they’re being given the hard sell. As with all elements of content marketing, subtlety is crucial.
You can upload videos that are a minute or shorter in duration, but keep in mind that Instagram automatically mutes content. People love quality videos, so we’d recommend using basic editing software to give your video posts a professional finish.
User-generated content is the dream: it's free marketing real estate. Think of it as the online version of someone wearing a sweater with your brand name and logo on it. All you have to do is search your tagged posts and brand hashtag and find examples of real-life customers wearing or using your product.
In the process, you’ll inspire loyalty in the individual whose post you shared. What’s more, there’s a good chance you’ll see an uptick in mentions as other customers scramble to get noticed and mentioned by your brand. Who doesn’t want to be an influencer for a day?
Behind-the-scenes footage is a great way of humanizing your brand and authentically engaging your audience. Giving your followers the inside scoop makes them feel like they’re part of your inner circle. Make sure they’re as authentic as possible, as cheesy or staged content might be written off as cringy.
As the resounding success of Google demonstrates, people love to learn! You can post snackable tips or advice on how to do something on-brand, with simple, easy-to-follow instructions. Ask followers to share their results with the relevant hashtag and voilà, you have more user-generated content at your fingertips.
Motivation, the grind, the hustle, a positive attitude — these are all core aspects of many of today’s go-getter mindsets. Modern audiences are looking for inspiration and motivation to help them succeed. They often look up to brands and individuals they respect to find motivation, so they can follow in their footsteps. Use these sparingly so they don’t lose luster, and they’re a great way to reinforce brand values and encourage your audience.
An effective influencer post can be the holy grail of marketing, and you don’t need to work with big-name celebrities to make an impact. Find smaller influencers, such as podcasters or YouTubers with smaller audiences, whose values align with yours. Either sponsor them or send them free samples in view of making an influencer post.
It seems like there’s a national or international day for everything these days, and newsjacking posts take advantage of these holidays. It’s a great way to tap into hashtags and create fun, lighthearted content with the potential for a far reach.
Instagram for Business: How Do You Post on Instagram?
Quality of content is the most important thing on Instagram, not posting as much as possible. Images and video should be shot on a high-resolution camera or phone, and use empty space, symmetry and simple geometric patterns to capture people’s eye. Let’s take a look at how to upload and optimize Instagram posts.
Taking and Cropping Photos for Instagram
Remember that all pictures display as square on your business profile feed. Square pictures should be 1080 x 1080 pixels and rectangular ones should be 1080 x 566 pixels. Most eye-catching images you see on Instagram are edited, which you can do using the built-in editor or separate software. Keep in mind that no amount of editing can transform a dodgy image, so be sure to capture the perfect shot before going into postproduction.
When you upload your picture, it’ll get cropped into a square, which you can change by pressing the icon featuring two arrows facing outwards. You can use the wand icon to adjust photo lux, which is essentially the contrast between exposure and brightness. Once you’re done editing the photo, hit the next button and publish your image.
Typing Instagram Captions
With Instagram, it’s truly the images that make an impact, but captions provide vital context and give you an opportunity to reinforce your brand values. You can write captions with a much higher word count than, say, Twitter, (2,200 vs. 280) and storytelling is effective on this platform. Keep in mind that it organizes content according to what its algorithms deem will be engaging. So, take the time to capture your audiences’ attention, and mesmerize them with your caption.
Light-hearted but authentic posts do well on Instagram, but make sure you develop a brand voice that you stay consistent with. Captions should speak directly to your target market and include a call-to-action to get them to engage with the post or follow a link. Use tracking links in your URLs, so you can measure the success of each post, repeat what works and drop any content that doesn't resonate.
Using Hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags are essentially user-generated keywords and keyword strings that are spelled without spacing and have a # sign in front of them. They might be about an event, product, referring theme or pop culture reference, and they’re one of the top ways to expand your reach on social media. Instagram's users can search for hashtags in the same way they can search for people or brands.
It’s tempting to just do a bit of word association in your head and fire out any old hashtag, but this won’t generate the best results. You should brainstorm with one or more people and conduct market research into which hashtags in your niche have performed well recently. It’s possible to use the ‘explore’ tab to research popular posts and their hashtags. Plus, by searching for any hashtags you have in mind, you can see how many posts use it and view related hashtags.
There’s etiquette when it comes to hashtagging. Too many is viewed as spammy by the Instagram algorithm and your followers. One to four is usually enough to get the desired results without overwhelming your caption. If possible, blend them into your caption, but if not, you can add them at the beginning, at the end or in a comment underneath.
If you’ve got amazing video content that you want to share on Instagram, but the video is too long, you can use the hyperlapse feature. The result is a time-lapse video that’s smooth and stabilized. To use the feature, you’ll need to download the Instagram app and grant it access to your phone’s camera. Tap the record button once to start and stop recording, and then choose a playback speed of between 1x and 12x. Save the finished video to your camera roll and add it to your posting schedule.
Boomerangs are 3-second video clips that loop forward and backward, taken using Instagram’s in-app camera. They provide an opportunity to create cute, quirky videos that show off something fun and uplifting, like a toast, high five or leprechaun jump. There’s also a separate Boomerang app you can download if the style is in keeping with your brand persona.
Instagram stories are a series of full-screen images and videos that disappear after 24 hours. People want to get to know what your brand stands for and engage with it on a personal level. Social media users will return to a page with great stories, just for fun.
A ring in Instagram’s brand colors appears around your profile picture to let followers know you’ve posted a story. Story filters and interactive polls and stickers are a great way to make your Instagram stories pop and encourage engagement. Let’s take a look at how to use them:
- Click the + icon at the top of the screen
- Select Story from the menu
- Tap the white circle to take a photo and hold it to capture video, or use the camera roll icon to select from existing images or videos
It’s easy to check the views by pressing the Story icon and looking at the viewer count. This can help you post more of what works in the future and avoid making Stories that don’t resonate.
How Many Instagram Stories Can You Post?
You can post up to 100 Instagram stories, which is enough for one per week for two years! Frequency is important when it comes to Stories, so be sure to consistently post to a set schedule to avoid disappointing your followers.
If there’s a Story that made a big impact, you can pin it to your profile as a Story highlight. This means people can keep coming back to it and new followers can see it. It also means the very best content is showcased at the top of your profile, defining your brand until you choose to delete them. You can include as many stories as you like in your highlights, and keep adding them as your content portfolio grows. Below is an explanation of how to create a Stories highlight:
- Either open your Story if it’s still up, or retrieve it from the Archive tab if it’s older than 24 hours
- Press the Highlight icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen
- Either create a new highlight or choose an existing highlight to add the Story to
Reels has come in as direct competition to TikTok, the platform taking Gen Z by storm. It lets you create 15- or 30-second looped videos that are great for dance challenges, recipe ideas and informational content. There’s a separate explore page for Reels, so it’s another direct route for your target audience to come and find you.
Consistency Is King: What to Pay Attention to
To finish off, we’ve put together some tips to help you refine your Instagram social media strategy down to a fine art:
Style guide: A style guide is the magic ingredient that means no matter which team member posts on your Instagram, the style remains consistent. It should contain all the necessary information for someone to create a perfectly on-brand post, from layout to hashtags.
Composition: You don’t have to be a professional photographer to capitalize on posting on Instagram, but you should aim to have consistent photos. Keeping composition professional and harmonious is essential for creating an Instagram profile that connects with audiences.
Font and color palette: Due to Instagram being such a visual medium, aesthetics are extra important. Maintaining consistency across key visual elements is vital.
Instagram Filters: Instagram filters have the power to make any amateur photographer look like a pro. With just a few taps, you can drastically enhance images. As such, it’s important that you only use a select few that are consistent with your brand.