Just a few seconds after browsing Instagram for the first time, you notice that it’s simply not like any other social media platform out there.
There are a few things that stimulate any marketer’s mind about Instagram - visuals, hashtags, and ads.
In this article, we will talk about how important it is to add Instagram to your social media toolbox and how brands are transforming the marketing game by crafting new strategies for audience growth.
What makes Instagram a powerhouse for E-Commerce engagement, traffic and sales?
Instagram Engagement is Massive
75% of Instagrammers have either visited a profile, website or taken an action after seeing an advertising posts in their feed.
The most active brands on Instagram post about 5 times a week and more than 4.2 billion posts are “liked” every day.
So, why should you enter the Instagram world?
Those numbers may be quite impressive, but why should you actually bother? Is exploring a whole new social channel worth the time and effort?
Well, we believe the answer is yes.
And we also believe it’s applicable to any type of industry.
The only thing you literally need is good visuals that capture your craft and express your passion.
Let’s explain what we mean a bit better.
Reason 1: Brand Awareness
Expanding to multiple channels raises the awareness for your brand.
Despite the fact that a lot of people have accounts on multiple social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, not everyone can follow all the content on each of the networks.
This means that Instagram may be a great chance for you to expose your brand to people who haven’t seen you on other platforms.
The best (free) way to reach those people is using hashtags. Tons of hashtags.
Compared to other social networks where hashtags no longer have the power they once possessed, Instagram allows you to go wild with them. The more - the better.
Use Hashtags to Boost Visibility
One resource we use for ideas in our Instagram profile is from PostPlanner. They suggest the most viral hashtags for specific niche markets.
Choosing the right hashtags will gain your posts serious visibility and engagement.
In Instagram, there is no limit to the number of hashtags you use, so the more the better! This is what gives your posts an extra exposure boost.
A few things to remember when selecting the hashtags for your posts:
Don't use hashtags that have nothing in common with your post just because they are popular. It will hurt you growth more than help it in the long run.
Don't use too much popular hashtags
Avoid the most viral hashtags such as #love, #cute, #cat, etc. The competition there is simply too heavy for you to gain any growth or serious engagement on your posts.
Get creative and add something personal
Come up with your own hashtags and think of brand-specific ones. This will gain you some points for creativity and effort.
Hashtags also help you categorize your posts, and the more relevant they are to the content of your post - the better.
But don’t think your job is done.
Collaborate with Instagrammers
Brand awareness is built when you engage with other brands and customers. This means checking out other’s content and engaging in liking and commenting.
Let’s give an example.
22 Bicycles is a store that sells custom handcrafted titanium bikes. Their Instagram profile features images from their physical store, manufacturing process, racing events, and promotional materials for their bikes and other accessories.
To build their brand awareness, 22 Bicycles cooperate with other brands and mention them in their posts. This helps brands exchange followers and potential traffic to their online stores.
One way for you to try is to start searching for the leading hashtags in your industry and pick out what you like the most. Then start following, liking and commenting on what you like the most and what you think of their posts.
Bottom line: Instagram is designed so people can easily find content they are interested in and engage with other users and brands. You simply need to become a part of it all and be consistent so you can steadily grow your brand awareness.
Reason 2: Show Your Story, Culture & Values
Tell people what you’re about. What’s your mission, what’s your story, what does your business stand for?
People love a good story. It’s a very powerful way to spark curiosity and make users become deeply interested in your values and culture. Hence, your products.
Show the Difference You’re Making
Luckily, Instagram is one of the best storytelling platforms.
Since it’s focused on visuals, you can craft posts that show the way you make a difference in your niche, just like Apolis have done with this post:
As you see, this has nothing to do with product placement or advertising. But it still has a lot to do with marketing.
It’s about the company values and the fact that they don’t function like most brands do.
Although it doesn’t explicitly say how they actually function, it’s still a powerful message that makes you think and you become curious about their culture.
Ideally, the next step users will take is browsing some of their other posts or directly visiting their site and seeing what the brand is about.
Multiply that by 700,000,000 potential users and you will get the idea why Instagram is the perfect place to tell your story.
Another example is Nextbit, a company producing Android devices merged with the cloud so you never run out of storage.
The tech company is using their Instagram profile to share what they believe in, what are their day-to-day activities and what they enjoy about building what’s next, right now.
Bottom line: Letting your users and Instagram followers into your culture and showing what’s it like to be inside the company helps build stronger customer relations around the passion you have in common.
Reason 3: Connect & Engage with Followers
In the beginning, we gave a brief perspective of how big engagement is in Instagram. Let’s show why this engagement is actually at the core of the social network and how it defines the behavior of all users.
Compared to Facebook or Twitter, Instagram is crushing both platforms in terms of brand engagement.
Notice the numbers generated by GoPro in the example below. 319,001 likes and nearly 500 comments in just 15 hours.
But let’s see how this exact same photo performs in their Facebook page:
This is owed to the simplistic engagement mechanism of Instagram and the intuitive way users interact with the app.
Now, we know that GoPro is an extreme example and not every brand can compare to their marketing strategy based primarily on visuals.
However, it goes to show why using Instagram to connect with your users can be much easier and give much better results if you find the right approach.
How to get the ball rolling, you might ask.
Well, posting quality images and interesting content is the minimum you will need to get users to interact with you.
What you should also be doing is to always reply to the comments you are getting and begin liking and commenting with other brands or some of your users as well.
For example, if a user posts an image with one of your products and mentions your brand, always be sure to give the proper response and never ignore that gesture.
Bokeh Life is a brand that appreciates street culture, photography and makes their revenue off of snapbacks.
If you scroll through the Instagram page of Bokeh Life, you will see that they get comments and questions from their followers and rarely leave an unanswered one.
Bottom line: Instagram promotes a more personal connection that goes beyond B2C communication. It transcends into a real and natural human to human conversation where people on both sides talk on the same level.
Reason 4: Audience Expansion
What every E-Commerce site needs is to grow its audience, and you’ve probably found that to be one of the hardest parts of running your OpenCart store.
Well, Instagram is built to stimulate growth. That’s why, expanding your following can be fairly easy if you’re consistent enough and understand the hashtags well.
As you have noticed, we’re mentioning hashtags a lot. That’s because they are the first thing you will need to get acquainted with when starting your Instagram profile.
Growing your audience gets much easier when you get better at choosing the right hashtags for the images that you are posting.
A good practice is to mix up popular and not so popular hashtags.
For example, popular hashtags such as #love are not much likely to do any good if it’s the only one you’re betting on. The competition is insane and you’ll hardly manage to get any attention, unless your image is truly outstanding.
To get your post in front of as many users as possible, you’ll need to use more hashtags and try to make them diverse.
Let’s see an example.
ACTION are exploring different directions with every post and their choice of hashtags is not just meant for a broader reach. They also convey their message of redefining your way of transportation and show they are a brand with character.
If you’re a millennial, there’s a pretty big chance you’re already hooked and want to learn more.
Posting frequently will get your images in front of the Instagram community more often, which means you’ll get more exposure.
But there’s another type of consistency you’ll need to think about.
Follow a single theme when building your Instagram profile. Use similar filters and choose a pattern that you’re going to stick with.
Scrolling through a profile and seeing some photos that simply don’t fit among the rest can be a turnoff for users.
Passion and Interests
Instagram is meant for people who want to share their passion and come together around an idea. Show what you’re all about, show what’s behind the face of your brand and most important - be honest and authentic.
You’ll be surprised.
Take Patagonia Provisions for example. A food store that’s “reinventing the way we grow our food”. What makes them more than just a store is the cause that they’re fighting for. Besides their food products, you can see tons of info about their mission and knowledge how people can become part of it.
What they are doing with their Instagram page is contributing to their main goal - to build and grow a community around their passion for food and nurturing our planet instead of just depleting its resources.
Bottom line: To give users a reason to follow you and keep interacting with your posts, you need to offer value with each post. Whether your images are going to be informative, entertaining or inspiring, people will always stick around when you give them real value.
Reason 5: Showcase Products and Run Promotions
This is where things can get really interesting.
The ideas we’ve given you so far in the points above were directed at building your audience, growing your followers and engaging with them.
Now it’s time to see how you can begin showing them what your products are about and what’s the value you’re offering.
Again, the key is in the visuals and the reach you’re getting with your hashtags.
Analog Coffee are a good example of a small business with just over 10,000 followers. The visual representation of their meals is not just mouthwatering, but also comes with the hashtags to reach users beyond their following.
Creative photography and capturing your products so they can hook users is not always enough, though.
Instagram is not a direct sales market.
It’s better to see the platform as a way to get more eyes on your brand and the value you’re offering.
The ideal goal of an Instagram business page is to build a community that revolves around a specific interest and passion.
With that being said, posting a cool photo of a product might not always be enough. You need to make every post count by showing not only the item, but also why it matters and what’s the value that will keep users sticking around.
Modern Notoriety is a different example. They are a streetwear brand that has already built up a solid following. By taking a quick look at their last few posts, there are three different types of posts that stand out:
Apart from high quality images showcasing their product, they also publish posts that promote different emotions - laughter and astonishment. This can attract multiple types of people to become their followers and possibly - customers.
When it comes to promoting products, Instagram is a great way to stimulate some sales using promo codes and discounted items.
Specter Wireless is an audio store that sells wireless headphones and speakers. Instagram is one of the outlets where they run promotions with discount codes, giveaways and mass sales.
Imagine the following scenario: you’ve been interested in a pair of new headphones lately and you happen to stumble upon an Instagram post with what seems like a perfect fit for you. After opening it, you see a discount code giving you 30% off the price. What would you do?
Bottom line: Getting your products out on Instagram will not only help you grow your following, but also let you attract real customers by running promotions, giveaways, sales and giving discounts.
Reason 6: Connect with Influencers
Influencers are Instagrammers who have already amassed a significant following and manage to generate a lot of engagement and traffic.
(Lewis Hilsenteger @UnboxTherapy)
Often, they are people who make product reviews and get paid a certain amount for every image they post.
Connecting and collaborating with influencers will expose your brand and product to a new and larger audience. This is a great way to grow your own audience as well.
The first thing to do is search the most relevant keywords and hashtags. Find the users who have the most followers and highest engagement, follow them and shoot them a message or an email.
Another way is to find bloggers who publish Instagram content related to your niche. What you’re looking for is the right person who can tell your brand story and convince their audience of the value you’re offering.
(Charlotte Groeneveld @TheFashionGuitar)
Once you find a few influencers you think are right for you and they think your product fits their own style, you can begin building a partnership that will help your own Instagram grow and keep showcasing your products a wider audience.
Father Rabbit for example is a homeware shop with a lot of diverse products. They are collaborating and mentioning micro-influencers from the fashion industry to show off their clothing lines.
Bottom line: Influencer collaboration is a long term investment that can yield more benefits than advertising on two levels - your products get exposure to a wide audience in the form of a review from a person who is considered an expert in their field.
Reason 7: Videos. You Got 60 Seconds. Go.
5 million videos were posted in the first 24 hours after Instagram introduced that feature back in 2013.
So let’s raise the bar even more.
Video content has always been one of the most powerful marketing practices. But to make successful videos for Instagram, you need to consider the 60 second limit.
This means that whatever you want to say, whether you want to present a new product or run promotions, you need to be concise and fit all the important information within a minute.
Why bother with videos? Well, they officially generate twice as more engagement than photos do on Instagram.
As you can probably already imagine, this means that videos have the double potential to:
Raise brand awareness
Tell your story and show your passion
Increase engagement and grow your audience
Boost exposure for your products and promotions
Just like the Facebook algorithm, Instagram also gives more weight to videos and places them higher in the user’s feed.
But that’s not just because the type of content is in video format.
It’s all in the engagement.
The Instagram algorithm boosts the organic reach of posts with higher engagement. And since videos generate double that of photos, it’s natural that they will get better reach.
Time for an example.
Farer is a watch manufacturer with a rich heritage. They rely strongly on their traditions and story, which is why their branding and marketing strategy revolves around it.
This is a brand with style that appeals to an audience of traveling spirits who appreciate accessories made to reveal class and attention to detail.
A few of the videos in their Instagram profile are there to demonstrate the different layers of this brand: story, class and craftsmanship.
Bottom line: If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video tells much more. Better stories, more substance, captivating product presentations. Basically, all the power that Instagram holds for your business, multiplied.
Reason 8: Entertain and Inspire
As you may already be guessing, Instagram is not like other social media outlets. Not just in terms of how many users there are and how much engagement it’s generating.
Instagram is a place where people share their passion, have fun with their friends and most of all - tell their stories.
It’s an opportunity to get personal with your followers and show what you’re passionate about. You can be sure that they will appreciate it.
Brands take advantage of Instagram’s essence to get visual and use that to entertain and inspire their followers with powerful posts such as this masterpiece.