The Complete, Always Current Guide to Instagram Marketing

on under Social Media Marketing.

Over the last few years, Instagram has gone from a small app that many marketers thought had a minimum reach, to over 200 million monthly active users (MAUs), making it the fastest growing social network on the planet. Even though Instagram’s MAU numbers are still much lower than other social networks, that is no excuse not to be using Instagram for your business. Instagram typically sees a much higher engagement percentage than other social networks, which was exemplified in a recent study of the rock band Paramore’s social media accounts. In this study, the same image was posted to their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts simultaneously.

The results are telling:

  • Facebook Fan Page (3,200,000 fans) – 9,405 likes
  • Twitter (3,350,000 followers) – 433 retweets and 289 favorites
  • Instagram (360,000 followers) – 52,237 likes and 315 comments

Even though they had only about one-tenth of the following as their Facebook fan page, their Instagram account generated 5 times more activity.

Another study done by Forrester Research found similar results. This study showed that Instagram had a fan engagement rate 58 times higher than Facebook and 120 times higher than Twitter.

These numbers are truly astounding, especially when you consider how few brands are using Instagram compared to Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+. Since Instagram doesn’t have a reputation as an ad platform, and since users can’t drop active links into posts, many marketers don’t understand how to use it to their advantage. That’s a problem.

To help you stay ahead of your competitors, I’ve put together this quick guide to get you started using Instagram and then take your engagement to the next level. If you don’t need a complete run-down, here is how this guide is set up so you can feel free to navigate to the specific area you’re looking for information on:

  • Step 1: Set up your profile
  • Step 2: Connect To Existing Social Media Accounts
  • Step 3: Posting (Images + Hashtags)
  • Step 4: Interacting With Other Users
  • Step 5: Measure
  • Step 6: Advanced Marketing Strategies

Step 1: Set Up Your Profile

Creating an Instagram profile is pretty straight forward, and if you’ve already done this, feel free to skip to the next step. Instagram doesn’t allow you to post from your desktop (without some cumbersome workarounds) so step one is to download the Instagram app to your mobile device from the Apple Store (it’s free). Fill out your profile completely and professionally before you begin posting. You may only get one chance with potential users, you don’t want to give a bad first impression.

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If you’re unfamiliar with Instagram, there are a couple of important differences between Instagram and other social networks. Unlike Facebook and Pinterest, all Instagram accounts, whether you’re signing up for yourself or for your company, are treated the same. There aren’t different “types” of accounts like many of the other social media networks. This distinction was more for a reason. Instagram wants everyone to feel like they’re connecting with each other, so keep this in mind when deciding on your brand’s “voice”.

Profile Name & Bio

Keep things as streamlined as possible between social media accounts to make it easier for your customers to find you. It is worth noting, however, that unlike most social media networks, Instagram allows you to change your account name as many times as you like, and you can include things like underscores (_) and periods (.) in your name. The only other information that will be shown on your profile is your website (a url, which you can change to promote campaigns or new pieces of content) and a short, 150 character bio. For your bio, since you’re limited in terms of length, keep it simple. Using your brand slogan or a brief elevator pitch that explains what your business is, what you do, and what people can expect from your Instagram profile is a good way to go. You may also want to include any branded hashtags you’re promoting (and yes, I’ll cover hashtags later in this guide).

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Profile Image

Since there is no header image like Facebook and Twitter, your profile image is the only opportunity to include a “brand” image. This image isn’t clickable to zoom, so it should be clearly identifiable by users. I recommend using your company’s logo or matching it with your other profile photos to to create familiarity for your followers on other social networks. This photo will be cropped into a circle on Instagram, so make sure to choose an image that will look good in that shape. Though the profile picture will be 110 pixels in diameter on the mobile app, choose a larger image since it will appear larger on the web.

Enable Notifications

In the beginning, you may want to enable all notifications for likes, comments, new followers, and tagged photos of you. There may come a point where you don’t want to see all of these, but when you’re getting started these notifications are vital to engagement with your followers. Being able to see when a user follows or interacts with your brand will allow you to react in real-time, an important part of the Instagram experience.

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To change the app’s settings, tap the gear button on the top-right corner. From there, you can also view the posts you have liked, find people to follow (this page will allow you to connect to Facebook and your contacts, as well as see suggested accounts), access Instagram’s support options, clear your search history, and log out.

Following Users

When looking for users to follow, start by finding relevant industry experts or influencers and existing clients you work with, then follow them and engage. You can search the hashtags being used in your industry and interact with the users using them and commenting on those photos. Don’t be afraid to follow users who follow you, especially those who appear to be active in your community on Instagram. Not only will this include you in relevant dialogues in your industry, but it can also provide you with creative inspiration as you get started. By observing and interacting, you can quickly expand your following on Instagram.

Gaining Followers

You’ll also want to take advantage of the social media followings that you’ve already built. Make sure to add your Instagram handle to your website and other social media profiles for cross-promotion. I’d recommend letting people know you’re on Instagram in a post on those social media sites or sending out a message asking your existing followers to also follow you on Instagram.

Step 2: Connect To Existing Social Media Accounts

Now you’re ready to post your very first Instagram image, right? Wrong. Before that, you need to make sure that you’re making sure every post gets maximum exposure. You can do that by linking all of your existing social media accounts to your Instagram account, which will allow you to push posts through all your channels at once. This will save you the time it would take to log into each account separately when you want to post the same content.

One of the added benefits to doing this, on top of saving you time, is that when you share your posts on other networks, it will show it as coming from Instagram. So, if you are just beginning to build your Instagram following and have more followers on your other networks, it’s an easy way to drive traffic to your Instagram account.

Instagram currently allows you to share posts with:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Flickr
  • Foursquare

It should be noted here that this tactic is most useful in letting your followers on other social networks know that you have a new Instagram account, and auto-posting shouldn’t serve as your go-to social media marketing strategy. Don’t worry though, even if this feature is turned on, you still have the option with every post if you want to share it with all accounts, or just Instagram.

Linking your accounts is easy. When setting up a new post, you’ll see this screen:

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When you select which social media networks you wish to share your content with the first time, Instagram will prompt you to login to the corresponding account before posting. After you set your login credentials once, Instagram will save them for future use so all you have to do is tap each network icon to push your content.

If you work in retail, food, or any other business that has a physical location, make sure you also tag your photos with that location. This location tag can then be used by users to see other photos from your store or restaurant.

Another thing that you can do is to embed your posts onto your website. This is another way to start bringing awareness to your new Instagram account as your website followers will hopefully click on your posts and then follow to your Instagram account. You can embed your Instagram posts onto your site posts by following these simple steps:

  1. Go to Instagram.com and locate the image or video that you would like to embed
  2. Click on the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo and click “embed”
  3. Copy and paste the code into the text file of your blog post

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Step 3: Posting (Images + Hashtags)

Instagram is a visual network. Your goal at first should be creating a recognizable brand. You’ll accomplish this not just with the subject matter of your photos, but with how they look, and how you caption them.

Visual Style

It’s important to think about how you want your brand to look, and more importantly, how your brand is going to stand out. You can accomplish this through a specific choice of filter (or filters) as well as how you frame your photos or the subject matter. Since your goal is to get Instagram users to stop scrolling once they see your image (in order to engage with it by liking or commenting), the more instantly recognizable your photos are, the better.

Grant K. Gibson, an interior designer on Instagram, uses white borders and a very simple color pattern in the majority of his posts. If you were scrolling through your feed, his particular style would probably jump out to you, a type of effect brand are certainly hoping to have on their audience.

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Instagram has its own set of editing and filter options, but there are also a large number of third-party photo editing apps, such as Snapseed, Camera+, or VSCOcam, to use depending on what you want to accomplish. Alternatively, you could edit the photos on your computer and then import them to your phone. Photos that have been edited or filtered elsewhere can still be imported into Instagram.

Visual Content

Don’t be scared off if your brand doesn’t have a specific set of products that you can easily capture on camera. Many brands find success promoting themselves on Instagram using lifestyle content, which seems to connect well with the Instagram audience. This can be photos of your office, your city, or something else entirely.

If you’re unsure of your brand “look” on Instagram, start by observing the people you followed earlier in this guide. Look at what they’re sharing and see if anything inspires you. Then replicate the visual themes in your own content. An accounting firm might find their followers are very passionate about coffee or cars, and share content from their employees which fits these themes. These same brands can share their followers’ photos (giving them full credit of course) as a form of user-generated content. Hammock company Kammok uses UGC regularly in their feed. It serves as a way to both get new content as well as to encourage people to interact with their brand on Instagram.

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Hashtags

It may not seem like it yet, but there are non-visual aspect of Instagram. Not only is this is the way you introduce your posts and how you interact with users, but also some much more important. Hashtags.

As the Internet changes, so does the language used to describe it. Over the last decade, we’ve learned an entirely new way to talk thanks to all of the new ways we have to communicate. Social media has been at the forefront of that movement, and what first began showing up on Twitter, has now now spread to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Google search, and even everyday conversation. Of course I’m talking about hashtags. In the most basic sense, hashtags serve as a way to unite the online conversation; They allow for people to find, start, and join in targeted discussions.

Steve Cooper, writing for Forbes, eloquently laid out why you would want to use hashtags:

As ridiculous as hashtags might seem to marketing veterans who remember a time before Twitter and Facebook, the younger generation and potential customers/clients don’t. To them, using hashtags is as natural and common as typing their query into the search box.

This means you can introduce new people to your brand or product by including the appropriate hashtags with your photos. A popular technique used by brands is the branded hashtag. This doesn’t mean simply using your company name as a hashtag (don’t do that). This is about finding a hashtag that embodies your Instagram brand and encouraging followers to share photos that fit that image. Brands receive the benefit of increased exposure to new potential customers, and Instagrammers participate for a chance to be featured on a brand’s profile–as well as the prestige and the increase in followers that accompanies it.

Kammok’s branded hashtag #theroolife has generated thousands of posts from their community, which has gives them a way to easily search for users to connect with, as well as providing a way for new users to find their brand.

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To find the most relevant hashtags for your updates, you can use a free online service like Iconosquare or Websta. These tools provide a list of popular hashtags based on your keywords. You can use these lists to come up with the top 10-30 hashtags (30 is the limit) that relate to your business, brand, or products. Make a note with them listed in your smartphone so you can refer to them no matter where you’re posting from.

While there’s no right or wrong answer to how many hashtags you should use, generally speaking, it’s pretty clear that the more you use, the more likes you’ll get. While you want to keep in mind your overall brand appearance, Max Woolf analyzed over 120,000 Instagram photos to find a correlation between hashtags and likes. His findings were simple: The more hashtags you use, the more likes you get.

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Step 4: Interacting with other Instagram users

There are five main ways to interact with other users on Instagram.

Tagging

Just like you can tag other users in your photos on Facebook, Instagram allows you to add tags before you post an image or video. To do so, tap the Tag People option before sharing your photo, and then tap in the photo where you’d like to add a tag. The app will then prompt you to type in the person’s name to search for him or her. Once you’ve tagged someone in your photo and shared the image, other users can tap on the photo to see the who is tagged.

Mentioning

Like Twitter, on Instagram you use the @ symbol to tag other users in your comments or photo or video captions. Typing in the @ symbol, followed by the first letter of a person’s username, will bring up a list of people you can select from; or, you can simply finish typing out the person’s username on your own. It’s also important to note that if you want to reply to another user’s comment (even on your own photos), you need to tag the person in it with an @mention, or that user won’t get a notification.

Liking

Liking is a simple way to connect with other users. To like a photo, either double-tap the image or tap the heart button under the post. To view photos you’ve liked, go to your profile, press the gear button on the top-right corner and select Posts You’ve Liked.

Commenting

Another simple way to connect with other users is to comment on photos. Next to the Like button is a Comment button — just tap it, and the app will take you to the Comments page for that photo. Use the text box to type what you want to say and hit Send when it’s complete.

Direct Messaging

Users can communicate privately via a feature called Instagram Direct. To access it, go to the app’s home page, and tap the button on the top-right corner. Here, you can send photos and videos to other users. To send a photo or video, tap the “+” button on the top-right corner. This will open your camera just as it would if you were creating a new post. From there, you can either take a photo/video or upload one from your camera roll, edit it just as you would any other post, add filters, write a caption, and then choose a user (or multiple users) to send it to.

Step 5: Measure

As with any social network, you should be tracking how your Instagram posts are performing. While you might not have a lot of data to pull from in the beginning, this is the perfect time to be using A/B testing to start to understand how and when users interact with your brand. You can start to see which images are resonating best, when your followers are most likely to be on Instagram, and which hashtags are bringing additional eyes to your posts.

There are several free online sites that can help you pull data, such as Iconosquare or Simply Measured. Decide which metrics are most important to you and put together a schedule for how often you want to review the data. Since social media moves quickly, and Instagram trends can change in a short time, you should be checking your Instagram performance at least weekly, if not more, depending on your resources.

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Once you have chosen a platform, pay close attention to which photos get the most engagement. For the sake of this guide I’ll be showing screenshots of Iconosquare, but you should check out several options to decide which feels right for you.

A number of online studies show that Instagram users are most active between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm, but your following might be different. It’s important to keep in mind the mobile nature of Instagram. While Facebook and Twitter also have mobile applications, both of them are regularly accessed via a desktop computer as well. The mobile readiness of Instagram makes the “best times” curve a bit flatter than other networks since the app is used mostly on the move.

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You’ll want to set up your own goals, but to give you an idea of what some of the bigger brands do, you can look at Track Maven’s report last fall about Fortune 500 companies on Instagram. In it, they found that on average, big brands received 37 total likes and comments for every 1,000 followers.

Tracking Your Instagram Traffic

Arguably, the biggest downside to Instagram is no outward linking. Instagram doesn’t allow for hyperlinks in photo captions or comments, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for links at all. In the bio section of your profile below your bio description, there is space for a clickable link.

While Instagram isn’t known for driving a lot of traffic through links, by using this feature effectively, you can begin to see dividends. An advantage to marketers is that you can change the link as often as you want.

Want people to go to a specific product page for two weeks and then change it to a new product page after that? Just change the link. If you’re running a contest and want people to opt in or register on your website, make this page the link in your Instagram profile. Then change it back to your default page when the contest is over.

One common gripe is that t’s hard to track this traffic because Google Analytics won’t recognize mobile traffic that comes from Instagram, due to the process of having to select a browser when navigating away from Instagram. Therefore, when someone clicks on the link in your Instagram bio, Google Analytics records the traffic as direct, not a referral from Instagram.

The best way to accurately monitor click rates is to use a trackable link in your Instagram profile. Instead of listing the full URL, get a Bitly or goo.gl link that allows you to track clicks. Make sure you create a different customized link each time you change the link for a new landing page, campaign, or default page, to continuously track successful traffic leads.

Step 6: Advanced Marketing Strategies

Below I’m going to cover the two most common types of Instagram marketing, giveaways/contests and user-generated content, as well as provide examples for inspiration. But remember, it’s important to build a following before embarking on marketing campaigns. Without followers, no one will see your content. Make sure you follow our suggestions in the sections above, and then, once you do, we can get down to setting up an effective marketing campaign that will generate a big buzz for your business.

Advertising On Instagram [Updated September 2016]

Remember earlier when we discussed how a key problem with marketing on Instagram has been the difficulty driving traffic back to your website due to Instagram’s rules regarding clickable links in your posts? Well with the recent update to the platform, that has changed – if you use promoted posts.

With Instagram also announcing that they’re moving away from a chronological feed in favor of a curated feed, you’ll likely see a drop in your normal posts’ organic reach. This is another reason using promoted posts will being to look more attractive to brands.

Whether or not you decide right now that you want to use Instagram’s advertising feature, it’s a good idea to know how to do it.

Because Instagram ads are purchased and managed through Facebook’s self-serve interfaces, you’ll first have to connect your Instagram profile to a Facebook Page, which means you need a Facebook Page. If you don’t have one, I will show you how to set one up here.

If you do have an account, here’s what you need to do to link your Instagram account to your brand’s Facebook Page:

  1. Go to your Facebook Page and click Settings in the top right corner.
  2. Select Instagram Ads from the left column and click on Add an Account.
  3. If you have an existing Instagram account, enter your username and password. Otherwise click Create a new account.
  4. Click Confirm.

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Now that your accounts are linked, you can create your first campaign in the Ads Manager section. If you’ve created Facebook ads in the past, much of this process will be familiar to you.

First thing to do is when you’re in the Ads Manager section, click on “+ Create Campaign” near the top left corner of the screen. Instagram Ads offers several campaign objectives, which are essentially the marketing goals you’re hoping your ad will accomplish. It’s important to understand the differences as your choice will influence how your ads are optimized and how you pay for them.

Remember that not all campaign objectives listed are available on Instagram. If the objective you’re interested in is available for Instagram, a popup will appear when you hover over it.

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After you decide on your campaign objective, the next thing to do is to customize your target audience. It’s important to have a clear strategy of who your target audience is, their interests, and that they’re actually active on Instagram. When selecting your audience, you can choose from the following filters:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • And more

Once you choose your audience for this campaign, that specific Custom Audience will be saved and you’ll be able to use it again in the future, which will make this process a lot quicker next time around.

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Next you’ll be asked to choose what your budget is, and whether that amount is daily, weekly, or for the entire campaign. These default amounts will be $20 and $500, but to select a different amount all you have to do is click on that field and enter your new budget. For your first ad I recommend beginning with a small budget. You can always increase the budget later if your ad is performing well.

You’ll also need to determine whether your ad run will run continuously starting the day you create it, or if you want a specific date range (like for a Holiday promotion). If you choose a specific start and stop date, you’ll receive a confirmation of your start date as well as an estimate for how much you’ll spend during that timeframe.

During this entire process as you make changes, you’ll be able to see your estimated daily reach on the right side of the screen. While this will be broken down for both Facebook and Instagram, you don’t have to run your ad on both platforms.

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Once you’ve decided on who will see your ad, as well as your budget, click “Choose Ad Creative” in the bottom right of the screen. You’ll then be taken to another screen which will prompt you to choose whether you’ll be using a single image, video, or carousel ad (which is like a slideshow of multiple images). Here is a quick breakdown of each:

Photo Ads

The first option, and typically the most popular, is a photo ad. Photo ads give your brand a chance to tell your story through imagery, which is still the main reason people use Instagram – just look at this 2015 report from Olapic and L2 which showed that photos and stills generated 36% more likes on Instagram. And if you think that people don’t want to see products on their feed, think again. 65 of the best performing posts on Instagram displayed a product prominently.

With the photo ad option, you can use a square or landscape format image.

Carousel Ads

Sometimes one photo just isn’t enough. If you want to tell a sequenced story with multiple images, then the carousel option is what you’re looking for. This option let’s you tell a story about your brand without worrying about overcrowding user’s feeds or overwhelming them with a lot of sponsored content.

With the carousel option, you can choose up to five images that users can swipe to see, as well as there being a clickable call-to-action link that will take them to your website to learn more.

While every brand is different, according to Instagram, carousel ads have, on average, produced an additional 2.5 point lift in ad recall compared to brands who used the single photo option.

Video Ads

If photos don’t quite tell your brand’s story, video is also an option. On top of being able to include sound and motion, advertisers also get the added benefit of sharing videos up to 30 seconds long and in landscape mode. This is an advantage over normal users as individuals can only post 15-second videos at this time. According to Instagram, this will give your ads a more “cinematic feel.”

Similar to photo ads, video creative can appear in the square or landscape format.

Once you’ve decided on which format you’re going to use, scroll down to upload your images or videos. Remember that all Instagram ads will have a Sponsored icon at the top right of the post.

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After selecting your images or video, you will want to enter a caption for your ad below, as well as any links you’d like to include. While your text should be compelling and descriptive, the key with Instagram is to let your visual content do most of the talking.

If you choose to include a call-to-action, you can choose one of the following:

  • Book Now
  • Download
  • Learn More
  • Shop Now
  • Sign Up
  • Watch More

If you do have a link in your ad, make sure you’re using a shorter, web-friendly version in the Display Link box. On the right you’ll be able to preview your ad. Once you’re happy with your ad, make sure that you’ve checkmarked which platform your ad is going to run on, and then click Place Order.

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If you’re interested in learning more about this feature, check out the Instagram business page.

Using Instagram Stories [Updated August 2016]

In what’s probably the biggest change to the platform since getting away from square photos, Instagram recently launched Stories, a SnapChat-like feature that lets you post a collection of videos and photos in one post. Like SnapChat, the “story” will disappear after 24 hours.

This new feature is meant to allow users to no longer worry about over-posting and potentially getting penalized in Instagram’s algorithm. “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about over-posting,” the company said in its announcement blog post. “Instead, you can share as much as you want to throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want.”

But, will this new feature help your brand?

Yes.

From the brand’s side, one of the new features is that you can get specific details on who’s watching these videos, which can provide valuable information about who’s interacting with your brand, when they’re most active, and what content is resonating with them.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “a flurry of media companies including CNN, Food Network, People, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan and Tastemade have taken to regularly producing Stories, and some say they are seeing solid early viewership numbers.”

AwesomenessTV, a media company that is a joint venture between Hearst Corporation, Verizon, and DreamWorks Animation, has already begun running one of the first advertising campaigns with the new features and the numbers are give a clear indication that there is a lot of potential. And when People used the Story feature with the Today Show cast, they got over 100,000 views, a Time Inc. spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

So think about what your audience might enjoy and try it for yourself. To create your own story, just do the following:

  1. Tap on the + button found on the top left-hand side of your home screen or swipe left in your Feed. You can also quickly launch Stories by swiping right from the main screen.
  2. Tap the circle button at the bottom of the screen to take photos or tap and hold to record a video.
  3. Edit the photos or videos with text or add a drawing as you normally would.
  4. Tap Done to save your Story.
  5. Tap the checkmark button to share to your Story.

Setting Your Marketing Goals

The first thing you have to figure out is: what are your goals? A common mistake businesses make with Instagram is to use the same goals they use with their other social media networks, like “we’d like to sell X number of this product.” While Instagram, when used correctly, can lead to increased sales, because of the limitations we’ve discussed earlier when it comes to links, it doesn’t excel at creating immediate sales. Instead of your goal being focused on sales, look to increase followers, engagement, or brand mentions.

Making A Plan

Like any marketing campaign, your Instagram marketing needs to be well thought out to be successful. You need to think about who your target audience is, what types of accounts they follow, what types of hashtags they use, and possibly where they’re located.

Next, what message are you trying to get across to them? Remember, you first need to get them to stop scrolling through their feed before they’ll even read what you’re posting. Are you creating a branded hashtag for this campaign, and if so, how are you going to incentivize people to begin using it?

Lastly, as we touched on earlier, how are you going to measure your efforts and what is going to be considered success? Whatever your goals, there are a couple of things you can do to reach them.

Giveaways/Contests

Giveaways and contests are usually the go-to strategy for smaller brands or brands just starting out on Instagram. The idea is that to get users to interact with your brand for the first time on Instagram, you’re going to offer them an incentive. This can be done by giving away your product or a discount to your product, or by giving away your services. You could also partner with another company to run a dual-campaign where you’re both offering something. Either way, once you’ve decided on the WHAT, you need to focus on the HOW. There are four ways you should consider:

    1. “Follow to win”: With this type of contest you’re simply asking users to follow your Instagram account, and at the end of a certain timeframe you’ll select a new user to give the prize to. The upside is you’ll see an increase in followers, however the downside is they can easily unfollow you after the contest ends.
    2. “Like to win”: Here you’re increasing engagement on a single photo, but unlike Facebook, increased engagement doesn’t help future posts and although you’re likely to see an increase in followers who want to know if they won, this probably won’t lead to long-term engagement.
    3. “Submit to win”: Here you’re using the URL in your profile and directing users to go to that link and enter their information for a chance to win. Those with a larger Instagram following than email list will see the biggest benefit with this type of promotion, because of the added benefit of getting access to your Instagram users outside of the social network. This type of contest can be difficult because Instagrammers are typically loathe to leave the Instagram app to enter their information.
    4. “Post to win”: This type of contest can see the largest uptick in engagement, as you’re actually asking users to interact with your brand. This usually  involves the user posting a photo using your product or acting in a way that your brand highlights, followed by using a branded hashtag of your choosing. This can have long-lasting positive results as all of their followers will see them engaging with your brand, and hopefully, will be intrigued enough to follow the trail from the user’s photo to your brand.

It is up to you to decide which option is best for your brand, but we recommend a combination of several of these options. In a potential contest, users might have to follow your account AND post a photo of them using your product. An example of what I’m talking about can be seen below with the brand racquetandjob. In the example, they’ve posted a photo of the prize and then told their followers that to win, they have to follow their account and the company they’re partnering with’s account, post a photo of them wearing their racquetandjob shirt, and use a combination of branded hashtags. You can assume that the company they’re partnering with will also be posting this to their followers as well.

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Take a quick look at the account the other brand in this photo, polerstuff, and you’ll find that they have multiple contests and giveaways going on at the same time. One giveaway is their #bagitandtagit promotion, where they ask users to post a photo of what they put inside their polerstuff bags and use the branded hashtag for a chance to win. This promotion has garnered almost a thousand unique posts including the post for the first contest we discussed. This is a great example of how to get users who are interacting with your brand for the first time to continue to do so.

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One final thought on contests: Follow through on the giveaway and post the winner, ideally getting them to post something when they receive their gift. This will help with future contests as users can go back and look to verify the validity of your contests.

User-generated content (UGC)

This type of campaign works by interacting with users and asking THEM for content that you will then post to your account. This a great way to both increase engagement and increase your following as your brand is being put in front of the user’s specific following, which may or may not have overlap with yours. An added bonus is that you can also use this content to share through your own account online, saving you time in the content creation process.

You can do this a number of different ways. If your company makes a product, you can simply ask your followers to post images of the creative ways that they use it. Make sure your instructions are clear. Creating a specific hashtag will help with bookkeeping, as you can easily search for their submissions. Users should also be required to tag your Instagram account in their posts so their followers can get involved as well.

One example of this is the Chicago tourism account ChooseChicago. You can see in their bio that they ask users to use the hashtag #mychicagopix to share their photos of Chicago.

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Throughout the year, they choose their favorites and feature a new photo each day, linking to that user. Clearly this is working, as the hashtag #mychicagopix has almost 200,000 posts.

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Closing

Don’t let the lack of sheer numbers of users compared to the other social networks dissuade you from embracing Instagram; If done well, Instagram is an incredibly powerful avenue to connect with your customers on a more personal basis,. Use this guide as a baseline for your Instagram efforts and watch your followers grow as you actively engage with them one-on-one. Please be sure to bookmark this guide as we’ll update it regularly as new features get rolled out. Feel free to ask us any questions in the comments below.

 

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