19 Apr 2017 21:12 IST

Instagram 101: A beginner’s guide to marketing

Instagram influencers are the newest way to market your product

When Instagram was first rolled out, it created a frenzy among shutterbugs. The many photo filters you could add, in addition to the concept of social photo-sharing became an instant hit among the new generation of smartphone users. Today, with over 300 million active users, it’s no surprise that Instagram is a highly sought-after digital marketing platform. Of course, the success of your marketing campaign (on any social media platform) depends entirely on how well you utilise the platform’s many unique features. Here’s a quick guide for marketers who are just starting out on Instagram.

Create a killer profile

Everything starts with a profile page and, if your end goal is to sell through Instagram, your profile page must stand out from among the competition. Creating a profile page that is both great to look at and easy to navigate is the crux of a successful marketing campaign. For the best possible look, make sure to use only High Definition photos that truly bring out the beauty of your product. Even though Instagram is a mobile-friendly app, it's safer to click pictures of your product with a professional camera rather than your phone.

Creating a profile name can be tricky as Instagram lets you select two names; your username with an ‘@’ symbol, which is your handle, and your profile name. Both of these names are searchable, but from a marketing standpoint it’s best to keep both names similar and have the names directly relate to a possible keyword your target audience would type in when searching for products that you sell.

For the profile biography, you must talk about your product (in 150 characters) and give a solid reason for how your audience can benefit from using the product. The bio is the only space you get for direct selling, so make sure to link your website or e-commerce page so your audience can easily purchase your product.

Caption your pictures

What is a photo without a caption? Instagram’s algorithms have morphed to be more content-friendly, so writing a good caption with your photos helps your brand or product reach target audience faster through search. Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters, including emojis and 30 hashtags. There are two ways you can approach a caption: write a caption that explains a story, but keep the important elements of the story in the first two lines or, keep your caption short and sweet, use creative wordplay and puns relating to the photo. Emojis can work wonders too; nearly 50 per cent of all captions and comments on Instagram have at least one emoji.

According to a study, the ‘love’ and ‘heart’ emojis receive the maximum engagement per post.

Hashtag your way to success

Hashtags are very important as they help reach the right audience. Hashtags can be broadly divided into three categories – popular, industry related and brand specific. The more the hashtags, the wider your post will reach. But the mistake many Instagrammers make is overusing hashtags and crowding them in the caption. This technique is a big no if you are using Instagram for marketing. Instead, try using the nifty technique of “hiding” your hashtags: post your hashtags in the comment section, or separate them from your caption by using line breaks.

Link your accounts

Due to more and more people using Instagram for both business and pleasure, the company released a feature wherein users can switch between multiple accounts (a maximum of five). This is a boon for marketers who enjoy getting creative with their strategies. Account switching opens doors to a new way of interacting with your target audience.

Say you are promoting a new shampoo. You can create multiple profiles, with each profile focussing on a certain ingredient of the shampoo that explains its benefits. Every time you publish a new post, you can tag your other accounts and nudge your audience to visit the other pages and learn more about your product.

Engage with your audience

Social media platforms are owned by consumers. To grab their attention, you need to create a compelling post that is meaningful to them so that they will stop scrolling, admire what you have done and share it. One of the best ways to ensure this is to bank heavily on posts that are engaging with your audience. Here are a few successful techniques.

~ @ mentions

~ Questions in the caption

~ A call-to-action

~ Behind-the-scenes photos

~ Instagram Direct: personal messaging

~ Caption contests

~ Instagram stories

Reach your audience through ads

Statistics say that 75 per cent of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post. But how can you reach the right audience? One of the best ways to do this is by running ads to your potential target audience. The Instagram ad platform is easy to use and is very similar to Facebook’s Ad Manager tool. Here’s what you have to do:

~ Select your objective

— Post boosting

— Website link

— Increase website conversions

— App Installs

— Page promotion

— Video views

— Narrowing your target audience

— Location

— Age

— Gender

— Language

— Relationship

— Work

— Education

— Interests

— Behaviour

— Connection

~ Set your placement

Since Instagram is linked to Facebook, you can widen your audience reach to Facebook users as well and even select the area where your ad will be displayed.

~ Select your budget

Select how much you want to spend per ad and the duration of your ad’s display. You can choose between a daily budget — setting your ads display duration on a start-stop daily basis, or a lifetime budget — setting your ad to be displayed continuously over a period of time.

With your budget and reach set, it's time to move on to the creation of your ad. There are multiple ways of doing this but it all depends on how best to represent your product. Also, remember to keep track of your ad’s performance with the statistics shown in the Ad Manager tool.

Use Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is among the most trustworthy of marketing techniques used today. Influencers are basically regular users of a product who constantly post reviews and suggestions regarding their daily use of the product. Your best bet is to contact multiple micro-influencers and coax them into using and promoting your product on their Instagram feeds.

Social media platforms are constantly updating and revising their features and ways of use, all of which can be marketing-friendly is some or the other way. Being an early adopter of any new feature released by the platforms is a sure-shot way to reaching your marketing goals faster.