How To Create The Ultimate Instagram Marketing Plan
Social Media / Oct 24, 2017
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms, and with over 500 millions active users it has marketers and business clamoring for a piece of the pie. We at Total Web Connections are no exception. We realized that we had been neglecting Instagram as a marketing channel, so we decided to go out and do some serious research on how to grow our following and make use of the huge audience. To put everything into action we’ve decided to create a case study. That one T shirt is one of the brands we manage, and being a relatively young brand with a low following it gives us the perfect opportunity to really test our ideas. We’ll be executing our plan over the next 3 months, so check back to see the results; good or bad. This post will be updated at the close of our study with the results, what we learned, and anything we changed from our initial plan.
Our main goal for this project is to organically grow the follower count. The focus is on bringing in high quality followers that are actually interested in what we’re posting. What we’re not interested in is followers just for the sake of having them, so no buying followers or anything like that.
Check back and see our results. Now without further ado, we give you the key points to being successful on instagram, and how we plan on tackling them.
Instagram is an interesting beast, so before we jump in there’s a couple of good things to keep in mind. These aren’t actual strategies, but things you can do to make your efforts more successful.
1. Using a tracking link
One of the biggest problem with Instagram facing marketers is the inability to directly link to an external page from a post. The only actual link you get is in your Bio. This makes it difficult to both get people to follow through to your site, as well as complicating your tracking and analytics. Our workaround is to use a link shortened that includes tracking. We ended up going with bit.ly for this which offers both a free version as well as a paid one which includes some additional features. This helps solve both issues. For one, it makes your URL shorter. If someone is going to go from Instagram to your site they’ll need to remember your link and type it into their browser. The shorter and more memorable the link the better and easier it will be to do so! Having built in tracking on the shortened links also allows us to gauge our success. Bit.ly comes with build in tracking on the shortened URLs, so we can be sure that our efforts are actually bringing in traffic.
2. Make The Landing Page Mobile Friendly
The majority of Instagram users are using it from a mobile device. Your site needs to follow suit and offer an excellent mobile experience in order to capitalize on this traffic. We suggest starting with the Google mobile friendly test, but take it a step further and manually check the user experience on as many mobile devices as you can. While the google test is great for technical purposes, it doesn't go through and test all the little bits of functionality to make sure it’s all working. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a broken menu button or other small things that seriously impact usability. Make sure to check this before you begin your marketing efforts. If you’re sending mobile traffic to a poorly optimized site don’t be surprised when your conversion rate is abysmal.
3. Watermark your images
With the prevalence of image “sharing” and the viral effects it can bring, we suggest watermarking non-branded images. Obviously, if your brand is already referenced in the image this is overkill, but if not it’s a good idea to do so. We’ve had people share our images to their followers before, and had we not watermarked them we would not have always received credit. This also works to share to additional sites that may not allow you to add direct links. If you’re planning on reusing the image across different platforms then this is a smart move that can help save time later on. The key here is to make unobtrusive as possible. Have high quality images, and your watermarks shouldn’t detract away from that. If it takes up half the image you’re going to have low engagements rates.
0. Figure Out Your Audience
If you’ve done other marketing efforts this is probably something that’s already been done. If not, then it’s essential to do this before jumping in. There’s been a lot written about creating customer profiles, so we won’t spend too much time on that here. The key is to determine who your images are going to be targeting, and what sort of content generally goes well with that audience. If you’re having trouble at this step try looking at competing pages and see who’s following them. This can help you start to profile which types of people might be interested in what you’re doing. Once you have an idea of your ideal customer spend some time checking out the pages they follow. This can be competitors as listed above, but don’t be afraid to expand out into unrelated pages. Take note of the types of content on these pages, and what generally does well in terms of engagement. Without this vital information it’s much harder to direct your marketing efforts.
1. Optimize your profile
First things first make sure your profile and bio are on point. You should be making sure that the profile itself is short and descriptive, and provides a strong call to action with your website link. You want to entice people that visit your page to follow through and head over to your site. We decided to revisit our own bio and add in some emojis to add some flair. Emojis are great visuals for drawing attention, and we’re hoping to do just that. We added a couple to strike a nice balance between drawing attention and just being obnoxious. We also wanted to draw attention to the fact that we offer free shipping on all of our items. This is one of the things that’s a nice a selling point as what you see on the product page is what you see. We Hope this helps to entice people through a bit. Follow suit and include something fun, unique, special, insert exciting adjective here, in your bio that you think sets you apart or adds value to your product/service. Use the bio to highlight the key parts of your business that will entice people to follow through to your site.
2. Create Daily Posts
Part of our strategy is to create a daily post. We did a bit of research online, and the general consensus is to create 1-2 posts per day. The key with each post is to make sure it’s high quality and relevant. We opted to only go with one post a day to make sure that each one was high quality. We didn’t feel like we could create 2 posts per day and maintain that quality, so we aren’t going to try. The two keywords here are consistency and quality. If you can generate two posts per day fantastic! But, always make sure what you are posting is of the utmost quality and you can consistently do so. It’s going to be much worse to post 2 images per day for a week and then nothing for a week after than to simply do once a day for two weeks. It’s also not going to help if you post a lot of low quality content. Take an honest look at yourself and assess what you or your team can produce. The next step was to figure out what we wanted to post. We had some general ideas (highlighting our products of course), but not enough right off the bat to fill more than a couple of weeks of content. To gather more ideas, we started looking over other profiles we felt were competitors or similar enough to fit our target audience. This gave us a lot of good ideas, and we were quickly able to generate enough to fill the 3 months for our test. Our suggestion is to set up a simple calendar or excel file and fill it out as you come up with new ideas. This will help keep everything ordered, and keeps us on track. We also decided to spend a few minutes each week going back through the above profiles to generate ideas past our case study for continued growth. Lastly, never doubt the use of user created content. While we don’t have a large following right now, we set up a custom hashtag at #thatonetshirt. Our goal is to work in call-out images once we begin to see sales asking people to shout us out using the hashtag wearing one of our shirts. Larger brands do this quite often to great effect; it’s never a bad idea to start working long term strategies.
3. Hashtag Research
Instagram discovery is all about hashtags. Using the right hashtags can give you the boost you need to gain some serious traction. Anyone searching for images on instagram is likely to be doing so with hashtags. Think of them sort of like keywords for seo, but for your instagram account. We separated our hashtags into two main groups, popular ones that could potentially have a large reach , and less popular ones that we could rank easily for the top posts. We decided on a cut off of roughly less than 25k posts to qualify for the later category. The main goal of any post is to reach the top posts. If you search for a hashtag, you’ll notice at the top of results is a few images in the top posts category. Getting here will obviously net a huge amount of potential views. For the lower trafficked hashtags this has proven to be fairly easy. Unfortunately, being a newer brand it’s unlikely that we’ll hit enough traction to get featured there for larger reach hashtags. Still, our posts will be featured in the recents section, and with the large amount of traffic going to popular tags this will potentially bring in some decent traffic. To start our hashtag research we wrote down a list of ones we could come up with or had used previously. Once we had exhausted our own list, we went to competitors pages and checked to see which sort of tags they were using. This ended up being very helpful and we ended up with a bunch of ideas that we never would have thought of. Lastly, we ran all those hashtags and looked at the images that were returned. From there, we explored the hashtags they were using, and added any relevant ones to our list. We also took note of the additional hashtags that were used. For example, we might use #nature on one of our outdoors themed shirts to target people that might be interested in that particular shirt. These are on a case by case basis though, not every one of our products is going to see good results from such a tag. We ended up with a huge list, and will be monitoring which ones perform the best and using them the most moving forward.
4. Utilize Stories
One of Instagram’s newest features is the ability to add stories. These are images/videos that expire after 24 hours, similar to Snapchat. This provides some interesting opportunities for short term posts. The obvious use case for us is 1 Day or flash sales. Our current game plan is once a week to offer a discount on a specific shirt and announce it exclusively through our Instagram story. This not only provides excellent value back to our followers, but provides some serious encouragement for people to follow us. Even if you’re not selling products like us, stories is an excellent way to connect with your users. Figure out which of your posts are the most successful, and turn those into story ideas to really connect with your followers. Stories are often under-utilized, but when done correctly can proof to be highly lucrative.
5. Engage with your audience
Once you start growing your followers it’s important to start engaging with them. This includes both current followers, and those who you think would follow you. For one, we’ve made a commitment to respond to a good number of the comments on our images. If anyone has any questions about our products we want to be right there to respond to them. This helps build a base of trust between you and your followers. We also give a quick nod to people who leave positive messages on our posts. It only takes a second to like a comment someone left, and it really helps build relationships to your brand. Another strategy we plan to implement is to reach out and follow or comment on other profiles. We want to generate awareness of our brand and the products we offers, and actively looking to engage with the community as a whole is a great way to do that. Make sure the comments you’re leaving are genuine and actually have some sort of value to them. Commenting “cool” on 100 images isn’t really going to help build your brand. Once again, if you have an engagement strategy it’s going to work best when it incorporates the research that was done to determine relevant users and pages. We want the people that we are generating interest with to be those that might also be interested in what we have to offer.
6. Curate Content From Other Creators
It can be hard to consistently come up with quality images to share with your following. One of the easy ways to get around this is to curate content from other users. To start, simply look for similar brands that you think your followers would like. Then re-post those images and give the user you took the image from a shoutout in the comment. A good way to grow quickly is to look for accounts that have similar follower accounts to yours. In that case you can offer to do a “share for a share”; where you share a piece of their content and they do the same for you. This can be excellent to quickly grow your followers as your posts will reach a completely new but also targeted audience. Generally, before we share the image of another account we like to reach out to them to make sure they’re okay with it. This is a bit of courtesy that goes a long way in building good relationships. You can simply send a direct message on Instagram, or to whatever contact information they list on their profile. A simple message like: “ Hey! I was looking at your profile and was really impressed with the imagery of your posts. If you’re up for it, we would love to share one of your images with our followers and share a bit of your story with our followers. Of course we would give you full credit for the post and tag your account in the post. Let us know if this is something you’d be interested in and keep up the great work! “ This is the generally the script we use to reach out to fellow Instagramers to see if they’d like use to help share their content. Some people are a bit hesitant to reach out and help others (especially if they are competitors) but in a lot of industries there is enough room to help each other.
7. Experiment with Paid Ads
Lastly, no Instagram marketing plan would be complete without paid ads. Like every platform these days, you can pay to boost your posts and get them in front of thousands of more people. It also allows you to directly link to your site from the post, which is a huge boost to your typically post. If you have the budget this is a good way to rapidly grow your Instagram following. Unfortunately, not all business have the sort of budget to throw money at Instagram, which is why we included this as our last point. Our current strategy is to promote posts which are already performing well. The idea is that if a particular post is already getting high levels of engagement that it will continue that trend with paid sources as well. We don’t want to spend too much time or money on this as we wanted our efforts to be duplicatable by any and all business. To that extent, our budget is roughly 1-2$ per day with a monthly cap of a mere $50. This should hopefully be a realistic budget for most small business, and not cause too much influence in the case of a team that chooses not to utilize paid advertising at all.
The Ultimate Instagram Marketing Plan
With that we reach the end of our plan. While fairly simple and straightforward it’s by no means a walk in the park. There is a definitely a good amount of work to be done here if your are succeed. If you only take one point from above, make sure to be posting high quality content consistently. This is by the far the most important aspect to growing an Instagram following as no one wants to follow someone with no content! As stated at the beginning, this is sort of our roadmap for the marketing efforts on our own page. We’re going to be running with the above ideas for roughly 3 month, and then we’ll update this post with the follow up. You’ll see exactly what our results were, and what we learned or would do different. Check back sometime mid January for all the updates!
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