Marketers may naturally consider Instagram the tool of choice for visual professionals. But the social media channel rivals Facebook — its parent — and Twitter in driving business to today's hyperconnected audience.

According to an eMarketer estimate, Instagram’s mobile ad revenue is projected to reach $2.81 billion worldwide in 2017. A Forrester study named Instagram the “king of social engagement,” revealing top brands on Instagram see a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent. That’s about 58 times higher than the rate on Facebook and 120 times higher than on Twitter, the study reported.

Per Instagram, the social media platform sees some 400 million monthly active users, including 75 percent outside the US, collectively sharing more than 80 million photos per day. Photos receive about 3.5 billion likes every day, a statistic that offers a glimpse of the kind of interaction that takes place on the platform. We’ve told you before about Instagram for businesses and the best marketing tools to create a better customer experience.

But how can business-to-business companies and brands replicate the success of business-to-consumer organizations? This week, at the online Instagram Success Summit, about 30 speakers offered their insights on how to use Instagram for promotion and engagement. Here are some takeaways.

Make Time for Content

Tracy Matthews, chief visionary officer at Flourish & Thrive Academy and creative director of Tracy Matthews Jewelry, explained how to use Instagram for community building, list building and selling products.

One of the most important practices is setting aside time to create content, Matthews said, whether it’s once a week or once a month.

“We call it time blocking,” she said. “The reason why people feel overwhelmed by creating the content and posting on a regular basis is because they’re not prepared.”

Preparing can mean setting a marketing and promotions calendar to outline what will push when, or play it more flexible and promote as warranted. Either way, decide which approach works best for the business and make a plan around that strategy.

Create a spreadsheet for content if it’s what the organization needs, Matthews said. Gather and keep track of all the assets there, such as links, photos and text. Matthews said her team uses Schedugram, an Instagram scheduler, to prepare content ahead of time. But it also posts natively to the app from time to time.

Vary Your Content

But just being on Instagram and posting content isn't enough — and it sure as heck isn't a strategy. Matthews said it's important to create different types of content to keep audiences engaged.

“You need to create a community around what you’re doing and also create engagement on what you’re doing, and constant pitching is going to totally isolate your audience.”

Vary content types between micro blogs, nurtured sequences and sales pitches. Give people some good, fun stuff, and then every six posts or so, ask them to take action, Matthews suggested. Try showing the process, for example, if there is an interesting behind-the-scenes experience to making the product or developing the solution.

Matthews says she loosely follows social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk’s teachings in “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” which discusses the marketing strategy of balancing jabs, building relationships overtime, and right hooks, or the conversion that drives sales.

Provide Real Value

Mark Iron, a mindset mentor at Mark Iron Consulting, grew 532,000 followers on Instagram and became a JV Partner through his popular inspirational photos and videos.

Learning Opportunities

After Iron wrote a lengthy piece about self-control, he gained 10,000 email subscribers in eight weeks and achieved about an 80 percent opt-in rate. He posted a professional photo of his free guide to create the lead magnet, asking followers to click the link in his bio. Iron said he took two to three months researching and reading books on the topic of improving self-control, making sure that he really offers value to readers.

“If there’s anything you can take away by gaining large followers is value. You’ve got to give them heaps and heaps of value and connect with them emotionally,” Iron said.

Iron, who posts on Instagram as @school4success, sees several thousand likes and dozens of comments on each of his posts. He publishes about two or three posts a day with a high-quality photo of inspirational leaders and uses the caption space to offer a tip he says helps motivate people throughout their days.

At the end of the week, Iron sits down and combs through his comments to make sure he covers all his responses and engagements.

Repurpose Content

An easy way to keep up with content is by sharing content from your organization’s community. People always want to be seen, Matthews said. Ask community members to tag your business Instagram or use a specific hashtag to indicate they want to be featured on your account.

Be sure to ask for permission in some way before reposting content from other accounts. Matthews suggests using an app like Regram, using #regram or crediting the account in the caption in some way.

“That’s a way to repurpose content, to give love to other people who are doing something in a similar space and also build your audience and create authority for yourself,” Matthews said.

And don’t shy away from sharing content from competitors, because “businesses thrive by supporting other businesses,” she said. Those businesses may also repurpose your content and extend your reach, which builds on good social karma down the line.

“There really isn’t competition when you’re able to differentiate yourself.”

Title image from school4success

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