Instagram has become one of the top social networking apps in the US, ranking just after Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp. From a business perspective, Instagram Marketing is also a powerful tool, making the social platform a great place to do business. This is why over 70% of businesses in the US have a presence on Instagram today, with close to 2 million of them spending money on ads.

The objective of a business presence on social media platforms is to establish a brand and build a following. When this is executed well, sales follow naturally. Instagram marketing can help with this.

Below is a marketing guide with steps to help small business owners navigate Instagram for business.

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Invest in original content

The content you post defines the kind of followers you attract. Using Instagram solely to promote your latest offers may repel a lot of your target users. On the other hand, you may miss out on crucial marketing opportunities by focusing just on engagement and not on sales. As a business, you must maintain a fair balance between engaging content that attracts users and promotions that can convert them.

Instagram is a highly visual medium and producing original content for this platform may thus require a lot more effort than other platforms. There are however a few strategies that can assist a business owner from maximizing their ROI from a content investment.

Partner with customers: People love to show off their latest purchases to their followers on social media. Build a list of customers who are extremely active on Instagram and offer to showcase their original photos to your followers. This is a win-win since your customers get extra visibility and you get original content for your followers.

Stick to a theme: While it is true that product photos with attractive offers are essential to convert your Instagram followers, let that not be your main social media strategy. Users tend to get quickly bored of Instagram accounts that sell all the time. Create a theme and stick to it. For instance, if you are a Swiss watchmaker, your Instagram feed could be photos of your various watch models snapped against stunning snow mountains. Make sure that your theme aligns with your brand values and positioning.

Influencer marketing

Partnering with influencers to market your product is one of the most effective Instagram marketing strategies. This is like celebrity endorsements, but without the high costs of securing a deal. The average influencer marketing campaign costs anywhere between $500 to $50,000 depending on the influencer’s popularity. For this price, businesses can reach out to thousands of targeted users with a message about their product.

This is how a campaign typically works – create a list of Instagram users who post content related to your industry and who are followed by thousands of users from your target group. You may then negotiate a deal with these influencers – this could either involve a monetary component or be in exchange for a free sample. If your business enjoys a great following yourself, you may also work out a barter arrangement where you repost content from each other.

Evaluating an influencer: Not all Instagram users with high follower-count can serve as an influencer for your business. There are two main aspects to consider. Your influencer must enjoy a high level of engagement among followers. This ensures that your post will also be seen and talked about by the followers. More importantly, your influencer should be someone who is trusted by followers. This ensures that a product recommendation from the influencer shall be listened to by the audience.

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Pricing an influencer deal: While an influencer may price their endorsements simply based on their follower-count, this may not be an optimal strategy for you, as a marketer. It is important to assess followers’ engagement levels and price your campaigns based on that. You may also request campaign reports from previous influencer deals to see the kind of returns you can expect from the campaign.

Hashtag marketing

Hashtags are one of the most unique aspects of Instagram Marketing. The social networking app lets users post as many as 30 hashtags for each of their posts. This is commonly used by users to tag their submissions to various categories it belongs to. As a business, hashtags are a goldmine for finding interesting content and users from your industry as well as being discovered by prospective customers. Tag your posts (especially promotions) with all the right hashtags that would make them discoverable by targeted users who do not follow you already.

Targeting your hashtags: Experts recommend using at least eleven hashtags on each of your posts for maximum ROI. However, the effectiveness of your campaign depends on how well your targeting is. Tagging a post with the most trending hashtags alone is not sufficient to bring you positive ROI. For best results, tag your posts with hashtags that are most relevant to your demographics. These are hashtags that your prospective buyers will look up for on Instagram.

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Targeting bots: The objective of Instagram marketing is to reach real followers. However, do not miss the potential benefits of targeting bots. Instagram bots are programmed to automatically like and repost submissions made with specific hashtags. Using these hashtags with your submission can help your posts get a much-needed nudge from these bots and this can help your account maximize your reach.

Instagram is one of the fewest social networks that are on top and still seeing a rapid growth in adoption. The potential to engage with customers and build a relationship with your target audience can be extremely lucrative. The Instagram Marketing tips above should help small businesses be discovered and build a following through this social medium. This is the first step towards brand building and increasing conversions.

Have you tried Instagram Marketing for your online business?  We’d love to hear your story in the comment section below!

Guest author Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. Check out their latest section on online course creators here.

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