Experienced digital marketers understand the power of visual content, and images and videos dominate as the most engaging content on the web. If we take a look at users’ posts on Facebook, the most broadly used social media platform, we see that the ones with an image preview will garner 2.3 times more engagement than their imageless counterparts. That’s a huge difference, and other social media platforms are now capitalizing on visual content — videos, images, GIFs, etc.
These platforms include Snapchat, Pinterest, and, our focus for today, Instagram. They all have their own niches and can be used for marketing purposes to varying degrees. The reason we are focusing on Instagram is because it has grown incredibly popular in the last couple years and entered popular culture as the social media platform of today’s youth.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the core of Instagram and see what makes it so popular with marketers. After that, we can start thinking about how we can leverage these facts to promote products or services.
Instagram has an enormous user base that now stands at around 800 million users. What’s even more impressive is that this platform has doubled its user base in only two years — in 2015 they only had around 400 million users! This growth trend is expected to continue throughout 2018, meaning that a long-term investment into establishing an Instagram brand presence is well worth the time and effort.
Another important piece of statistical information that outlines the stability of Instagram’s marketing potential is the fact that as many as 70% of American businesses are present on this platform. Over a million brands are attempting and succeeding (to a varying degree) in reaching their customers on Instagram.
We’ve already mentioned that this platform is the most popular social media platform for today’s youth, but let’s demonstrate this through more stats. Out of the 800 million user on Instagram, as much as 59% falls into the 18–29 age group.
The reasons this age group gravitated toward Instagram has a lot to do with the features the company has added over the years. This includes features like stories, explore pages, and so on. Instagram is good at assimilating features; for example, the stories feature was originally implemented by Snapchat, but brands now create twice as many stories on Instagram than they do on Snapchat.
Also consider the engagement rate per follower, which is huge on Instagram compared to other major social media platforms. The engagement rate per follower on Facebook is around 0.2%; Twitter stands at an even poorer number of 0.02%. Instagram, on the other hand, has an engagement rate of a whopping 2.3%! That’s a tremendous difference in engagement, and it isn’t any surprise that so many brands are flocking to Instagram.
Now that we have a grasp on what makes Instagram stand out from other social media platforms, let’s see what marketers are doing to attract their audience and get them to buy their product, or achieve their other marketing goals.
If you want to make use of Instagram’s marketing potential, then you need to create content that fits in. In other words, you need to learn how people perceive Instagram and the content associated with it. Here is how the young adult and teen user of Instagram describe the content that is produced and discovered on this platform in a survey conducted by Facebook:
More than 12,000 people were interviewed for this survey and we can use their perception of Instagram to create content that fits and engages. This survey also provided some insight into things that could improve a business’ chances of getting noticed.
This will take some getting used to, especially if you have no experience with marketing to Instagram users. The key is observation and market research. Find brands that are in your niche and see what they are doing. Steal and improve has always been a solid tactic.
Users are bound to trust other users more than marketers and brands in any online platform, but how much exactly? Well, Crowdtap and Ipsos conducted a study to try and answer this question. They found that user-generated content was 36% more memorable for other users and as much as 50% more trustworthy.
While this is a huge gap between user generated content and content created for marketing purposes, you can still rely on your community’s content to improve your own engagement – just make sure you ask for permission first! Buffer, the social media management platform, does this with their community’s content on Instagram, but they ask politely first. In most cases people will allow the repost, since there is really no harm done and they even get a broader reach that they couldn’t get on their own.
The process of resharing can be sped up by using one of the social media management platforms to make the whole thing a bit less tedious and time-consuming.
Instagram is widely used, but most brands are not present on Instagram alone. They usually tend to build a following on their primary platform by prompting their fan base on other platforms to find them on the one they value the most, in this case Instagram. Regardless of whether they are following you on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, you can send them a message that will include all the necessary information they need to connect with you on Instagram.This is very important, because if the process is too complicated most of them will just abandon it, so make it easy for them. Furthermore, if you’ve done this for Instagram don’t attempt to boost all your other social media profiles by doing the same thing for them. Constantly spamming and migrating your audience from one place to another is not going to do you any good.
In order to avoid being considered spammy with your requests, you want to ensure that you have unique content on your Instagram profile that they can’t get anywhere else. This way you have a legitimate reason to ask them to follow your profile, because it will give them something valuable in return – exclusive content!
Hashtags are not the norm on most social media platforms but on Instagram they are very important. Combined with a location tag, they are a big part of the discovery process and the content’s performance is inseparably tied with the location tag and hashtag.
In a study conducted by Simply Measured back in 2014, it was found that 88% of the brands on Instagram used at least one hashtag in their every post. The same study showed that posts containing at least one hashtag generate 13% more engagement on average, while those that combined hashtags with location tags gained an even better engagement at 29%. This was confirmed by a follow up study they conducted in 2015 which showed that the hashtag and location tag combination produced the best results on average.
Another important piece of information about Instagram hashtags was provided by Sprout social. According to their research 7 out of 10 hashtags are branded. This is fresh information, since this research was conducted in 2017. Most brands rely on hashtags to reach their audience, build a community, discover content and promote their own.
Don’t go crazy with hashtags, however, because there is a very real downside to overusing them. The shadow ban is a type of Instagram ban that removes your post from being visible in the hashtags they were tagged for. This means that your posts will lose a big part of their potential reach, not to mention engagement.
So, what is the optimal amount of hashtags per post you may ask? Well, according to the study conducted by TrackMavern, the magic number is nine, but take this with a grain of salt since any patterned behavior on social media tends to bring poorer results. Also, keep in mind that posts with more than nine hashtags tend to get more engagement than those with eight or less, meaning that you will be hashtagging quite a lot.
It can be quite hard to compete with user-generated content as a brand. Simply sharing your product photos, promotions and other brand-related stories isn’t enough. Finding creative ways to engage your audience is what counts the most.
Hashtags and other post optimization factors are all great, but if the post itself is uninteresting, you are not going to get great results. Fortunately, everyone has a smartphone these days and one of the popular approach to creating Instagram content for brands is to encourage your employees to seek out opportunities to snap great photos.
We can’t really give you a recipe for creativity, but we can set you up with a few great examples of how major brands did this. These are some of the most interesting posts that we found of plain everyday brands making themselves look great on Instagram.
Most marketers tend to concern themselves with the amount of content they should put out on a daily basis, but studies have shown that the consistency of posting is a bigger factor. The experiences of larger brands show that even posting 10+ times a day doesn’t significantly impact the engagement rates.
On the other hand, according to Tailwind, brands that post at least once every day of the week tend to get more engagement and grow more steadily than brands that don’t.
The takeaway here is that you should focus on consistency and quality. Even though posting multiple posts a day doesn’t impact your engagement rate, it might make it difficult for you to keep the quality of your posts high. This will most definitely impact your engagement, and it is much better to keep your community engaged over a longer period of time than to lose a big chunk of your following due to low quality posts.
Furthermore, as a brand you don’t always want to be a part of the stream of your audience – they might consider you to be too pushy and unfollow you. Nobody likes spammers! Keep it fun and keep it steady.
It might sound silly, but just reacting to what people comment can have a huge impact on your overall engagement. We don’t really have a statistic to quote on this one or a study to rely on, but most social media marketers will tell you that interaction is a big deal!
As a brand, your final goal is to make a sale and everyone knows this. If people have taken their private time to leave a comment on your post, at least thank them. Big brands are not expected to do this due to the sheer volume of interactions they produce, but even they find the time to react to those comments that are creating the biggest buzz. Smaller brands are not just expected to do this, they are doing themselves a disservice by failing to engage their audience.
This attitude is what keeps your audience loyal. It’s also what builds a community following you can rely on as a brand for feedback, promotion and sometimes you can even get brand ambassadors just because you took the time to interact t with them.
Still, like any other place on the Web, Instagram has its fair share of trolls and the golden rule applies here – never feed the trolls! The only thing you can get by getting triggered by these people is some famously bad PR. You need to keep your brand above petty comment squabbling and focus on the people that genuinely want to interact. As far as the trolls go, they’ll go away after they haven’t been fed for a while.
Overall, on most platforms video content has overtaken image content in the race for top-engagement content. On Instagram, however, things are not so clear – at least not yet.
Visual content still pulls more engagement on Instagram, yet the top influencers are reporting more engagement on images but more comments on videos. Even though images still reign supreme on Instagram, the average engagement is of videos is growing at a faster rate. Big brands have taken notice and have started to put out more video content.
Still, video content is more difficult to produce and takes more time to create. Even though the ideal length for videos on Instagram is around 30 seconds, blasting your profile with daily video content of this length can become tiresome very fast. Furthermore, you should keep an eye on your own metrics instead of relying on across-the-board statistics. If you photos are consistently getting better results, drop the videos and focus on what works for you.
Instagram offers a lot of potential to marketers and brands alike. The platform is healthy and it seems that it will continue to grow steadily. Adapting to its ecosystem is an entirely different story. Like with any other social media platform, new users tend to feel like outsiders at first, especially if the platform has been going for quite some time.
The same is true for brands attempting to make use of a platform’s marketing potential. It may take some time to find your voice and an approach that works for your situation and conversion goals.
Statistics and marketing tactics are all well and good, but smaller brands usually tend to find their own angle, as they should. Give yourself time, experiment and focus on things that show results. Use these approaches as guidelines and a way to build a foundation for your own approach in creating an Instagram following to improve your sales and your brand presence.
We hope this guide helps you out and feel free to comment and ask question if you have any. Good luck!