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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard about the photo-sharing social media application, Instagram, and chances are you probably have your own account too. If you run a business, personal blog or website and you’re not using Instagram to promote it, you could be missing out on a huge marketing opportunity for your brand. Here’s why: as of 2017, there are over 600 million Instagram users – and 400 million of these are active every single day. That means the world is your oyster on Instagram – it’s a gateway to many, many active followers – and hopefully sales too!

Getting started

The great thing about Instagram is that it’s free to download and use, and can be set up in a matter of minutes. The bread and butter of Instagram are the images and videos you post. That’s what really speaks for your brand, rather than a lengthy, detailed bio. This means the only setting up you’ll really have to do is a short summary of your business or blog and a profile picture – but these still need to grab the attention of any visitors to your page and give them all the important information they need to know about you at a glance.

Here are some quick tips for setting up your Instagram profile:

Profile picture – If you run a business, your logo is the best bet for a profile picture. Check out the example above by Brick Lane Bikes – they’ve made sure their page is instantly recognisable and memorable by using their eye-catching logo as their profile picture. On the other hand, if you’re a blogger, a clear picture of yourself or something that represents you can also work well, like Jasmine and Melissa have done in the example above.

Bio – You only have 150 characters to play with here, so your bio should contain only the most essential information about who you are, what you do and where people can find you. Of course, how you convey this information is totally up to you. There’s still plenty of ways to inject some brand personality into your bio even with such a small character limit – emoji’s or playful language for example.

There are four very different examples of Instagram bios above – but what do they all have in common? No matter what style or language they’ve used, they all display important information about their business in some way, such as locations, contact details, opening hours and what they do.

Links – You can include a link in your bio – this is the only clickable link Instagram will allow you to have on your profile, so use it wisely! This is your one chance to direct traffic from your Instagram page to where you want them to go next, so be sure to link to your website, blog, YouTube channel, ebook or estore here.

Handle – Your Instagram handle (the name that follows the @ sign, like Twitter) should be your business name, or at least match your other social media handles.

Business or regular profile? – There are currently around 8 million registered businesses using Instagram business profiles. Instagram for Business gives you access to built-in analytic tools that monitor how your posts are doing. As you can see in the following example, it also allows you to embed buttons into your profile, which followers can click on to contact you directly – something you can’t do with a regular profile.

You’ll need a Facebook business page to use Instagram for Business, and it’s a simple as a click of a button to switch from a regular profile to a business one. But if you decide it’s not for you and switch back, you won’t be able to switch again if you change your mind in the future. Here’s a guide to Instagram for Business if you think you’d like to try it out.

Marketing on Instagram

The Visuals

Instagram is all about visual stimulation so it’s important to make sure you’re uploading high-quality, eye catching images for your followers. There are a variety of filters and editing tools you can use to make your photos look more appealing.

Be creative with your product photos and consider all elements – something as simple as a change of background could be all that’s needed to create some variation in your product posts. Take Primrose Bakery for example – every picture is of a cake but the different angles, backgrounds and layouts they have used make their page visually appealing.

Be careful when promoting your own products or services on Instagram though – it’s not the place to hard-sell. Uploading photo after photo of products, with bland product descriptions or ‘BUY NOW’ as captions is not the way to keep your followers engaged with your page.

Marketing on Instagram is more than showing off your products – it’s about building a connection with your followers, giving them insight into your brand and the driving force behind the products you sell. For bloggers and community pages, it’s the same – people want to see the lifestyle behind the blogs, what makes you who you are and why you do what you do. The best way you can show this is by keeping your posts varied – a mix of lifestyle, product promotions and material thrown in purely to entertain your followers – like the post below- works well.

Another good idea is to give your followers insights into your office or work space. You can show off what’s unique about your brand, or yourself. There are millions of people posting on Instagram every day, so it’s important to stand out from the rest. It’s always interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes, and people are always curious about the unknown. Feed that curiosity to keep your followers coming back for more.

Engagement

It’s not all about having thousands of followers. You want to build towards a thriving Instagram page, with people liking and commenting on every post. There are a number of ways you can encourage this:

Captions – The visuals do most of the talking on Instagram, but the captions are important too. You can engage your audience with direct questions and show them that you value their opinion and appreciate their comments by responding to them as much as you possibly can.

Tags – Encouraging your followers to engage with your photos by tagging other people, like the example by Rosie Londoner above, is a great way to get your profile out there and seen by people who normally wouldn’t come across it – though it’s better to do this kind of stuff when you have a pretty substantial amount of followers.

Competitions and giveaways – Once you’ve built a steady number of followers, you can host completions and giveaways straight from your Instagram profile. And it’s win-win – you encourage followers to share your post or tag a number of friends for a chance to win a prize. You get the exposure and a lucky follower bags a freebie!

Hashtags – Hashtags are key to getting your content discovered. In fact, Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those without. There are many different types of hashtags you can use so it’s important to be strategic with them. The most popular ones, like #tbt or #instagood, will get your content out there, but it will be lost in a sea of millions of others using those same hashtags. Industry specific tags like #fashion, #tech or #blogger will narrow things down a bit, and then you can make up your own too. It’s best to use a mix of popular, industry specific and less common hashtags to give your content the best chance of being discovered. Its best practice to use at least 7 hashtags on every post, but the more relevant ones you can squeeze in the better. Want to know more? See our guide on using hashtags to generate engagement.

Exclusives and discounts – If you can present your Instagram as a place your followers can get exclusive access and discounts, you’ll keep them coming back. You can promote upcoming sales and offers, or post excerpts from an exciting future blog post to generate buzz and keep your followers on their toes.

Refining the strategy

Build followers – The easiest way to do this is by following relevant people in your industry, and people who show an interest in what you do. Follow back people that follow you too!

Plan your posts – You need to be consistent with your posts to build followers and encourage engagement. Set aside a day where you research and plan your content for the week ahead.

Monitor your results – This is easily done with or without an Instagram business profile. Instagram for Business allows you to click into your posts and view performance stats to help you see what’s working and what’s not. But with a regular profile, just monitoring what kind of posts tend to get the most likes or comments is enough to help you see what your followers are engaging with and what they aren’t.

Summing up

So there you have it – everything you need to start promoting your business, blog or pretty much anything that you do on Instagram. That’s the great thing about it – anyone is welcome, it’s quick, easy and free!

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