Instagram is generating great results for many brands. But a lot of business owners are yet to get their teeth into this marketing opportunity.
If you set up an Instagram account and then abandoned it because you just didn’t know where to start, this 10-day guide will help lay a great foundation for Instagram’s success.
By setting aside 30 minutes each day for the next 10 days and following these 10 steps you’ll be well on your way to growing your Instagram following.
Day 1: strategise
Before you even open the app, it’s worth taking the time to outline your strategy. This will keep your efforts consistent and produce greater results in supporting your business objectives. It will also help you avoid wasting time.
Start with defining your ‘why’ by asking yourself:
• What do you want to achieve by using Instagram?
• What are your goals and how do they link to your business?
• How can Instagram integrate with/support your wider marketing strategy?
Next, look at ‘who’. Define your target audience by considering:
• What do they like or dislike?
• What is important to them?
• How do you serve them or solve their problems?
Now, look at ‘when’:
• How often will you post?
• What times would your target audience be using Instagram?
Then comes the ‘what’:
• What message are you trying to convey?
• What story are you telling?
• What’s your brand/voice/personality?
• What sort of content will work for your audience?
Finally comes the ‘how’:
• Do you have the resources to create and post the images?
• Who will be responsible for your Instagram activity?
Day 2: Brainstorm
Rather than creating on-the-fly, brainstorm the types of images and content you will share. Can you create ‘how-to’ images that educate your audience, or inspirational images to evoke an emotional response? Is it possible to take your followers behind-the-scenes so they understand the time and skills it takes to create your product or service? These tactics all engage social media users.
Day 3: Create content
Before you set up or optimise your Instagram profile, it’s valuable to have a bank of images ready to go for two reasons.
1. It lets you populate your Instagram profile with at least six photos so people will know what your account is about from the beginning;
2. It takes the pressure off so you don’t have to create on-the-fly.
Pull out your content ideas from yesterday and pick the first 10 images you will create. If you’re really keen to get ahead of the game, have six to nine images ready to post when you create your profile, and 11 to get you through the next week (if you’re posting once a day).
Day 4: Set up your profile
Finally, it’s time to open Instagram and set up your profile. There are six key aspects of your profile to consider to make it stand out in the sea of Instagram users.
1. Choose a username that is as close to your business name (or your name) as possible. Try to keep it consistent with your other social media profiles.
2. Let your account name tell followers what you do. Include a keyword or phrase relevant to your business, as this account name is searchable via Instagram’s search function.
3. Choose a profile picture that is easily recognisable and stands out.
4. Use the 150 characters in your bio to grab the attention and interest of your potential followers by telling them what you’re about and showing them your personality.
5. Use the link in your bio to send followers to a mobile-friendly, relevant page (see day five for more information on this link).
6. Add six to nine photos that represent your brand and will encourage people to follow you as they discover your account.
Day 5: Optimise your landing page
The only easy way you can drive traffic to your website on Instagram is via the link in your profile. This link is an opportunity to drive your followers and potential followers to specific information or activity that will expand your relationship with them and ideally get them to sign up to your email list.
The link doesn’t have to go to your home page. You can choose a relevant page that will appeal to your Instagram audience and offer more value. The link in your bio can be changed as often as you like, so you can direct people to your latest blog post or promotional activity. I strongly recommend using the link to send people to a lead magnet (i.e. a page that offers a free download or something of value in exchange for the visitor’s email address).
Day 6: Follow people
In the early days of using Instagram, one way to build your community is to follow other people. When you follow an Instagram account, they receive a notification and many will check out your profile and possibly follow you back.
Research and follow 15-20 people who share your target audience and follow them. Look for influencers or popular accounts within your industry or related industries. Think about your colleagues, suppliers and potential clients. After a burst of following today, aim to follow at least five new people every day as you build your community.
Day 7: Hashtags
Hashtags are created when you add a hash (#) in front of any keyword or phrase (with no punctuation or spaces, e.g. #smallbusinesstips). The result is a clickable link that curates all images that use that hashtag into one search result.
By using hashtags in your posts, you are putting your images in front of people who are searching those phrases, along with expanding your reach and potential audience. Rather than adding a sea of hashtags into your image caption, however, add your hashtags into the first comment to avoid distracting your followers from your caption. Use at least three to five hashtags to broaden your reach.
It’s a good idea to look at posts by your competitors and industry leaders to see which hashtags they are using – do some research to see if they are popular.
Day 8: Engage
Posting to your account is just one part of a winning Instagram strategy. Equally important is engaging with your followers and commenting on other Instagram users’ accounts.
When you reply to comments and questions on your own images, you build relationships with your followers and demonstrate that you’re a real person who is open to conversations. This helps build trust and engagement with you and your brand.
Keywords must be thoughtful and relevant. Comments that look as though they are copied and pasted for the sake of commenting are inauthentic and will not win you fans.
Day 9: Manage your time
Like all social media platforms, Instagram can take up a lot of your valuable time if you’re not strategic. The nature of Instagram makes it more challenging to schedule posts, however, I have a process to manage my time as efficiently as possible.
• Monthly: I identify photo opportunities, selling periods or key messages that I want to share for the month, and brainstorm a list of image ideas.
• Weekly: I batch create my Instagram posts for the following week. I map out the messages I want to send, and create the images using my favourite tools. I then upload the images to Hootsuite and schedule the times I would like to post them.
• Daily (10-15 minutes): I post images once I receive notifications from Hootsuite at the scheduled time I respond to any comments on my posts, I skim through my news feed and look for any opportunities to comment, support or add value to other people’s posts, and I follow a couple of new people from my industry.
Day 10: Measure
Monitoring the success and impact of your Instagram strategy is important.
Your number of followers is only one measure – and it’s not the most relevant to Instagram’s impact on your business activity. You should also measure traffic (from the link in your bio), engagement (the number of likes and comments), brand awareness/mentions and other KPIs relevant to your business goals.
To measure traffic to my website from the link in my Instagram bio, I use shortened URLs from website bit.ly as the link, letting me measure the number of clicks. Iconosquare is also a valuable tool that lets you monitor your Instagram activity and provides statistics to help you optimise your activity. The statistics function of Iconosquare has recently become a paid service, starting from around $3.15 per month.
So there you go – your first 10 days on Instagram all sorted. These steps will not guarantee you thousands of followers overnight, but if followed, they will provide a strong foundation for your ongoing Instagram activity.